SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Some would call Jerry Kimball a reptile enthusiast.
Others would call him crazy.
Animal Control calls him an ordinance violator.
Kimball, a Richmond County native, was cited April 1 for not having his snakes on a leash.
He said he was doing an “educational meet and greet” at Falls Park, when two elderly ladies were “spooked” by his snakes and called Animal Control.
When the officer arrived, he wrote Kimball a $190 ticket for “animals running at large.”
“It was April Fools Day — I thought it was a joke,” he told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview on Friday. So he answered with a joke of his own: “Snakes don’t have legs, they can’t run around.”
Kimball said the officer didn’t find that funny.
“You could tell he didn’t like snakes either,” he said. “He was not being very nice about the situation…Explain to me how you’re going to put a leash on a snake.”
He said the officer mentioned wrapping a rope around the snake, which Kimball said would be animal abuse.
The Argus Leader reports that the Animal Control supervisor, Julie DeJong, said the city’s ordinance makes no distinction between types of animals.
“If it’s in public and it’s not on a leash, it’s at large,” she told the newspaper.
DeJong added that Animal Control doesn’t really expect snake owners to keep their reptiles on a leash in public, but they should be held or kept in a container.
“Some people are very scared of snakes, too, so that’s something they need to take into consideration,” she said.
Kimball is scheduled to appear in court for the ticket on Monday and said he plans to fight it.
A 2006 graduate of Richmond Senior High School, Kimball said he got his first snake as a present when he was 7 years old.
“Mom hated snakes (and) dad bought me a snake for my birthday,” he said.
Growing up, Kimball said he used to go down to the Pee Dee River and catch water moccasins and once helped remove a cottonmouth from a neighbor’s home.
He moved to Sioux Falls in May of 2014 after the death of his father for a job opportunity with $100 to his name and a backpack full of clothes — leaving his snakes behind, before coming back for them two months later.
One, a 22-foot albino Burmese python, Kimball said he couldn’t take with him and donated it to the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro.
He currently has nine snakes — varying types of ball pythons and a 10-foot red-tailed boa — along with chameleons, turtles and geckos.
Kimball said he takes his snakes to parks to try and break the stigma and fear that most people have regarding the reptiles, adding that usually by the end of the day, some want to get one of their own.
“It makes my day…to watch (children) enjoy something that’s supposed to be viscous,” he said. “If there was the slightest chance one of my snakes would harm anyone, I wouldn’t do what I do.”
He said he’s been working with the local herpetological society to try to re-home snakes.
“Just because you’re scared of them,” he said, “doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing what I do.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.