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Snake’s foster parents charged with theft

Fri., Oct. 10, 2008

Sale of red tail boa prompted action, authorities say

The Coeur d’Alene couple who took in a homeless red tail boa found in a Post Falls yard last month have been charged with grand theft.

Not because they stole the snake, but because they sold it on Craigslist, authorities say.

Matt and Anna Harrington were caring for the 8-foot boa, whom they named Hercules, but the snake remained recovered property of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s Capt. Dan Mattos said no formal adoption had taken place when the Harringtons put the snake up for sale. The couple did not return calls seeking comment.

A Kootenai County animal control officer heard about the online sale.

The Harringtons told sheriff’s deputies that caring for the snake had become too much to handle, according to a Sheriff’s Department report, prompting them to put it up for sale.

The reptile fetched $250 online, just enough to cover a veterinarian bill, the Harringtons told authorities.

The buyer, identified by police as 23-year-old Chris Altringer, of Spokane, ultimately had to return the snake to authorities.

“It’s being taken care of by someone until we can find out who owns it,” Mattos said. “I’m surprised no one has come forward to claim it. I’m being told these are valuable animals.”

The Sheriff’s Department estimated the snake’s value at $1,100.

The real owner might be afraid to come forward, said Tracy McDonald, of Spokane Reptile Rescue.

“Exotic animal laws in both Idaho and Washington have gotten so strict that often people don’t even tell you they have a snake,” McDonald said. While owning a red tail boa is legal in both states, the owner might fear repercussions such as a ticket for having an “animal at large” or a bill for the snake’s care.

After watching the snake on TV news reports, McDonald said it appears well-socialized and used to being around people.

“If the snake was scared around people, he would be coiled up,” McDonald said, adding it’s important that the snake is properly fed, kept warm and cared for.

“The moving around and changing people shouldn’t bother it,” McDonald said. “Red tails are very relaxed snakes.”

Reach Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or

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