Former Reptile Handler Charged with Animal Cruelty of Venomous Snakes

Maryland authorities discovered 10 venomous snakes at the home of a former zoo reptile handler and vlogger.

Brandon Joseph Boyles, 28, was charged Monday after Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) found several snakes, including two dead cobras, at his Cascade apartment.

Lizard-Kings-snakes Maryland Natural Resource Police recovered several venomous snakes from the home of a former reptile handler on February 22, 2018. Maryland Natural Resource Police

Boyles, who vlogged under the YouTube name VenomMan20, reportedly took five venomous snakes, three alligators and a crocodile he owned when he left his job at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in September 2017, The Associated Press reported. He returned a Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake in November, which prompted a search warrant.

Police discovered six Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, a 7-foot-long Forest Cobra, a Cape Coral Cobra and two Boomslangs when serving a search warrant on February 22. According to The Frederick News-Post, many of the animals appeared to be poorly cared for.

Charging documents revealed that water containers in several of the snakes’ containers were empty while other containers looked dirty and poorly maintained.

Officers, who were led by reptile specialist Corporal Mike Lathroum, concluded that many of the snakes could easily escape from the plastic tubs where they were being kept. Boyles told police that he was not licensed to own or care for any of the snakes.

One of the Boomslangs was found in the apartment’s bedroom, charging documents revealed.

“The snake was almost overlooked during our search because the tub [that it was in] was serving as a makeshift coffee table to beside table and the top of it was completely covered with empty pizza boxes, soda cans [and] plates with leftover food on them,” the documents said.

NRP spokeswoman Candy Thomson told Newsweek that the recovered snakes were taken to the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont, "where they are being held as evidence until Mr. Boyles' trial in May."  

Callan Hahn, the zoo manager and safari director of the Catoctin Zoo, told the Frederick News-Post that Boyles was a herpetologist and worked as a reptile handler at the zoo until he quit in September 2017. Boyles posted videos on YouTube between 2016 and 2017 of him unboxing venomous snakes, the NRP said.

Boyles was charged with 13 counts of illegal possession of venomous snakes, nine counts of animal cruelty and one count of reckless endangerment, authorities said. NPR

Thomson told Newsweek that Boyles was released on a criminal summons. His next court date is scheduled at Washington County District Court on May 8.