BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A man is facing nearly 70 citations for having everything from crocodiles to venomous snakes in his Bastrop County home.
While Brook Berntson has the reptiles legally under federal and state law, the county says he didn’t follow protocol to keep them in the Tahitian Village neighborhood.
“Mainly for public safety,” said Bastrop County District Attorney, Bryan Goertz. “In addition to be in violation of our county ordinances, which we take all of those seriously, he was in an area that posed what we consider to be some threat to that population in that area.”
Berntson’s had the reptiles in the home since 2009, with no complaints from the community. He has about 80 reptiles in the home.
Right now Berntson breeds and sells the reptiles, but says his goal is to open a serpentarium – or zoo for reptiles.
“[There’s] nothing more misunderstood than the snake, nothing more feared. And the reality is we’re the ones to fear,” Berntson said.
He met with the county to talk about his plans for a serpentarium, a conversation that would later get him in trouble after officials learned the reptiles were currently at the home.
“I’ve been the district attorney, this is my fourth term. I’ve dealt with all sorts of animals, from dogs and cats and fighting roosters,” said Goertz. “But this is my first venture with snakes – of this magnitude.”
Last week, the Tahitian Village Property Owners Association got wind of the reptile collection, and are threatening a civil lawsuit if Berntson doesn’t remove them from the neighborhood.
An attorney for the association, David Bragg, says Berntson has violated deed restrictions in Tahitian Village. Bragg says board members were upset after learning of the reptile collection in their neighborhood.
Goertz says if Berntson doesn’t comply with removing the reptiles from the county, they’ll continue to issue citations for violations.
Tim Cole, owner of Austin Reptile Service, says Bastrop County has one of the more strict venomous snake bans. He adds that Williamson County essentially requires no permits and no bans, depending on the numbers of species.
Berntson says he’s packing up and getting ready to move to another county, it’s not clear which one he’ll move to.