Pastor: Return Snakes, Pastor Jamie Coots insists he wasn’t trying to wriggle out of anything or rattle anyone’s cage when he drove five snakes through Tennessee. He just wanted to get the serpents to church in Kentucky.
Coots handles snakes as part of worship services at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro. In this case, the five snakes confiscated last month by Tennessee wildlife officials were bought in Alabama for $800 and intended for use at the religious service. Now, in addition to fighting a police citation, Coots wants the state to return the three rattlesnakes and two copperheads he purchased in Eastaboga, Ala., along with the boxes used to transport the venomous creatures.
“They feel they have a right to take them for whatever reason,” Coots said.
Coots is due in court in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 25 to face charges of transporting illegal reptiles and transporting the snakes in improper containers. The charges stem from a pair of traffic stops in Knoxville on Jan. 31.
Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers initially stopped Coots on Interstate 40 for having windows with too dark a tint. After being released with a warning, he was stopped again. This time, wildlife officials were called and the snakes were confiscated. The five snakes are being cared for at the Rainforest Adventure Zoo in Sevierville, Tenn.
WATE-TV in Knoxville reported that Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Joe Durnin testified Monday at a hearing on the charges that normally only zoos or other educational institutions will get a permit to have poisonous snakes. He says there are specific requirements for transporting the snakes, including putting them in cloth bags and labeling the containers.