Animal Welfare

Plot Twist: Amid Months-Long Snake-Hunt for Grand Prairie Cobra, Police Arrest Its Owner

Grand Prairie residents should watch where they step.
Grand Prairie residents should watch where they step. Photo by Anil Sharma on Unsplash
Last summer, a Grand Prairie man's highly venomous snake was reported missing. Months after first searching the surrounding area, the West African Banded Cobra remains at large.

The owner, 23-year-old Lawrence Matl, claimed that his pet had slithered to freedom because of a “caging malfunction.” But now, it turns out Matl just might've been the real snake all along.

On Friday, WFAA reported that Grand Prairie police have arrested Matl for allegedly illegally releasing his potentially deadly pet into the public. Either on purpose, negligently or recklessly, purportedly.

Matl is accused of committing a misdemeanor involving the illegal discharge of a certain type of snake and is being held at a detention center, where his bond’s set at $10,000.

The code Matl’s accused of violating covers anyone who knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence releases what’s known as a “regulated snake” from captivity. Ah, yes: Welcome to Texas, where snakes are more regulated than guns.

Under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's “Release from Captivity” code, Matl could face up to a year behind bars and a fine of up to $4,000.

Last summer, Matl spoke on TV about the nature of his snake’s supposed escape. With his hair pulled back in a messy-bun, he explained in a monotonic stoner voice about how he’s basically the St. Francis of Assisi, but for snakes. (Or would it be St. Francis of A-snakes-i?)

“I’ve messed with tons of reptiles, and I love all animals,” Matl explained, shifting his weight back and forth and staring at the ground.

“She’s beautiful, she’s intelligent,” he said of his six-foot-long, two-inch-wide snake.
But soon, WFAA started asking the tough questions.

“Now, what made you want to get a snake like this that is so rare and potentially dangerous?” the reporter pressed.

Matl smirked like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, then smiled.

“It’s, it’s not about that,” Matl insisted. “It’s really not.” As he answered, a large black bug landed on his forehead, delivering serious Mike-Pence-at-the-vice-presidential-debate vibes.

Last summer, after learning that Matl’s snake was at large, terrified neighbors rushed to fill cracks and holes around their homes, FOX 4 reported. Matl told the outlet at the time that when it comes to snakes, he doesn’t discriminate.

“I really just love reptiles as a whole,” he gushed. “No matter if it’s venomous, non-venomous.”

Matl refused to give his full name to FOX 4 but admitted that a lock would have prevented his snake’s great escape. Still, he insisted that his slithery companion wouldn’t attack so long as it wasn’t provoked.
“The thing is, is that these are beautiful creatures and they’re actually very sensitive,” he said.

Regardless of the loose cobra’s sensitivity level, we have a feeling that Matl won’t be welcomed into any HOAs anytime soon.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter