- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

An animal wholesaler in Silver Spring faces more than 30 counts of animal cruelty after nearly 200 dead animals were found in his warehouse.

Christopher Coroneos, 23, owner of Reptile Connection in the 2600 block of Garfield Avenue, was charged with 31 counts of animal cruelty June 9 after turning himself in to authorities. He was released on his own recognizance.

At least 16 ball pythons escaped from Reptile Connection on June 4. The neighboring business, Clever Dog Daycare, discovered the harmless snakes in their office space.

After more snakes and a dead scorpion and gecko were discovered in the parking area of the businesses, police were called. No people or animals were injured.

Inside Mr. Coroneos’ warehouse, investigators discovered venomous snakes locked inside secure cages. It is illegal to have venomous snakes in Montgomery County, said Officer Joyce Utter, a police spokeswoman.

The owner said he had federal and state permits for the snakes but was unaware he had broken county laws.

When Montgomery County police inspected the rest of the warehouse, they discovered a lot more — at least two king cobras, an alligator, 26 gaboon vipers, 100 emperor scorpions, two death stalker scorpions, boa constrictors, king and corn snakes, as well as 500 to 1,000 baby ball pythons. Of the more than 1,500 animals found in the warehouse, 199 were dead.

Inspectors found some pythons were small enough to squirm out of their cages and make their way out of the warehouse.

The next day, the entire collection was examined by a veterinarian and veterinarian technician to assess the animals’ health and welfare.

After the inspection, the animals were assessed to be at risk, the warehouse conditions were deemed unsafe, and all the animals were removed from the facility and placed in the care of area zoos and local herpetologists and veterinarians.

On June 9, a warrant was issued for Mr. Coroneos. The warrant carried 31 counts (one count for each live species and one count to cover the total number of dead animals) of animal cruelty for failure to provide animals with nutritious food in sufficient quantity, necessary veterinary care, proper drink, airspace or shelter.

Mr. Coroneos still may be charged with civil citations for possession of a dangerous animal, unsanitary and dangerous conditions, and animal trespass.

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