According to The Oakdale Journal, David Beauchemin, 45, was arrested in Quitman, Texas last week after authorities found 79 boa constrictors, pythons and anacondas, some as long as 20 feet, in a cargo trailer on his property.
Authorities said the snakes appeared undernourished and were living in filthy conditions. Many, officials said, were believed to be on the exotic snake list which requires a permit for possession of them.
Beauchemin and his wife, Tawni, are wanted in Allen Parish for failing to appear in September to face 21 counts of simple cruelty to animals and one count of possession of snakes longer than 12 feet without a state permit.
They also have charges against them of violating interstate commerce by selling snakes that it was not legal to possess, theft by fraud of less than $300, telephone harassment and stalking.
Tawni Beauchemin was not with her husband when he was arrested in Texas and remains at large.
Texas authorities said they believe David Beauchemin was operating an internet snake sales business from his motor home on the Quitman property.
While in Allen Parish, he operated HighEndHerps.com and Happy Hounds Rescue.
The snakes in Texas were transferred to the North Texas Humane Society for care until a hearing in the case.
The Louisiana case against the couple unfolded after a complaint.
The complaint that allowed the Sheriff’s Office to obtain a search warrant came from Lyndsey Rainer, a Humane Society volunteer who posted an ad for a Doberman on Craigslist and received a reply from a woman who said she wanted the dog for her husband.
Rainer met with the woman on Ward Road on March 13, but was told they couldn’t get on the property because the woman’s husband had the keys. Rainer left the dog with her.
On March 17, Rainer found her Doberman on Craigslist for $300. The photo posted was one Rainer took of the dog in her home. She contacted the Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Deputy Grant Willis said people don’t understand that even though they had complaints about the reptile farm, law enforcement could not go on the property without probable cause. This complaint of illegally selling animals on the Internet gave them what they needed to obtain a search warrant.
Willis at the time was at a loss for words to describe the human living conditions on the Beauchemins’ property.
There was no running water in the trailer and no bathroom facilities, although Willis said a septic tank was put down after the couple bought the property in 2007. He said there were no signs of habitation in the trailer on the property.
“The filth was worse than anything,” Willis said. “You’d have to smell it. It’s hard to describe the conditions out there.”
A drug dog was taken to the Beauchemin property, but could not work properly due to the strong smell of ammonia everywhere.
The property was gated and posted with “no trespassing” signs. Neighbors had been complaining almost from the beginning about missing dogs and cats, and speculating on whether the couple was using them to feed their snakes.
Authorities think the Beauchemins used dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, hamsters, chickens and other small animals to feed the large reptiles.
Forty-two snakes, dogs and cats were taken by the authorities. They were transferred to the care of a Humane Society near Baton Rouge.
Only twenty-two snakes were seized. Louisiana has very weak laws regarding the breeding and selling of reptiles. Snakes over 12 feet long and native species are the only things prohibited in the state. Each snake over 12 feet in length must have a permit.
Beauchemin had not gotten permits for the 22 longer reptiles. There is no charge for the permits, but the paperwork is necessary.
On March 20, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents cited the Oakdale couple for allegedly possessing pythons without a permit. LDWF was contacted by the sheriff’s office after deputies executed the search warrant.
LDWF cited the couple with 22 counts of illegally possessing pythons over 12 feet in length without the required permit. The pythons were seized.