Scott Nellis has been breeding snakes, lizards and rodents at his home in Coon Rapids for 16 years, but for the last year, he's been in a battle with the city to continue the hobby he loves.
In 2010, Coon Rapids changed an ordinance prohibiting boas and pythons, and Nellis told FOX 9 News he believes his home business should have been grandfathered in.
"They didn't realize that's a lot of pet snakes, and the number one pet snake is the ball python," Nellis explained.
Last October, a neighbor complained to the city. Nellis believes the complaint came because of the smell that comes from his garbage when he changes the bedding for a couple dozen mice and rats which he breeds as a food source. As a result, he was cited by the city for having illegal animals and running a business in a residential zone. Nellis is still in the process of appealing.
"There [are] no customers that come to my door. I go to trade shows. Most of them are out of state, actually," Nellis said.
While the city pointed to air quality issues, fire code safety concerns due to the many extensions cords he uses, Nellis points out that just 27 percent of his home is dedicated to his business. Not only that, but he uses racks specifically designed for snake breeders and a carefully organized cleaning system.
"This is private. This is my house. No one comes here. I don't take them outside. I don't walk the snakes down the street," he argued.
Now, Nellis believes a new ordinance introduced this month that seeks to limit domestic animals to 12 is aimed to shut him down. Currently, he has just under 300.
Off-camera, the Coon Rapids city attorney confirmed that neighbors complained and Nellis faces two citations, but would not comment further until the appeal goes to the Board of Adjustments on Dec. 6.
"If Petco and PetSmart are selling them right now, obviously they are not enforcing the law," said Nellis.
With about $50,000 sunk into his business and some snakes selling for about $1,000 each, Nellis is trying to understand the concern; however, he believes no venom, no worries -- and he's ready to sue the city if it comes to that.
"I would be dead if I had any venomous snakes. I've been bit, which is my fault when feeding -- but it was my fault," said Nellis. "You don't like snakes, that's fine -- but [these are] my private snakes. This is my house. This is my hobby."