Reporting Rachel Slavik
COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – A man’s love of snakes and reptiles has led to trouble with the City of Coon Rapids.
Scott Nellis owns more than 400 snakes, geckos and lizards; but Coon Rapids wants him to downsize.
From the outside, Nellis’ house looks like your typical Coon Rapids home. But what’s on the inside sets it apart. His house is full of roommates that are of the coldblooded sort.
“You mention snake and 95 percent of people go ewww, snakes. I can understand that,” said Nellis, who breeds snakes.
His hobby that started 15 years ago and eventually bloomed into a business of 60 lizards, 363 snakes and the necessary food, both insect and rodent, to keep them alive.
But Nellis’ passion for reptiles has put him at odds with city.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said.
Coon Rapids City Attorney Stoney Hiljus said the snakes are the issue.
Last October, a neighbor complained. The city then searched Nellis’ home and questioned its livability.
“It could pose a risk for public safety if there is an emergency,” Hiljus said.
The city wanted Nellis to have fewer animals, and he said he could do that. But having a lot of snakes is sometimes part of his business.
During that October search, the city also realized Nellis’ collection included snakes that are illegal in Coon Rapids.
Nellis has several species of boa constrictor and python. He, however, sees many of those snakes as more pet than product.
“I have snakes that are favorites, that I handle two three times a week,” he said. “It would be devastating [to lose them].”
Scott sees his coldblooded companions as an escape from the daily grind, and he is willing to fight to keep them.
“My job that brings home the paycheck is a rather boring job,” Nellis said. “That job brings home the paycheck and it basically sucks the life out of me. So coming home and playing with the reptiles gives me meaning to life.”
Nellis and the city are working together to try to come to a compromise, but it could take months before it’s sorted out. They still haven’t decided how many snakes would need to go, but the pythons and boas make up about two thirds of his snake collection.