Claims by the DSE in a media release dated 5 August 2011, that Snake Man Raymond Hoser put members of the public at risk during reptile shows are totally false.
Hoser was convicted the day prior for breaches of his DSE licence conditions after DSE changed the rules without telling Mr. Hoser, however these did not involve safety issues.
In 2007, Hoser was told to purchase a barrier to use as a pit for displaying venomous snake species, which he did. The barrier Hoser spent $5,000 on was exactly as instructed by then DSE head Ron Waters and essentially the same as what all other wildlife displayers in Victoria use.
In court in February this year, DSE changed their mind and as the government were given this right, Hoser was convicted of not using a correct barrier, even though at no time had DSE put in writing what they (now) wanted.
In a County Court appeal this week, Judge Campton was scathingly critical of the way DSE effectively entrapped Hoser into breaching unwritten rules and told them to put what they want in writing so Mr. Hoser can comply with whatever they demand in the future.
Campton also said she would publish her judgement.
Importantly however, Hoser was convicted on a technical offence in terms of the construction of the barrier and the judge stressed he was NOT convicted because of any safety risk at his particular company’s shows. Compton went further and pointed out that Hoser and his conmpany Snakebusters could not have put people at risk of venomous snake bites at his shows because all his snakes had been surgically devenomized and were therefore safe.
At no stage was Hoser, his Snakebusters staff or any member of the public ever put at risk of venomous snakebite as claimed in the DSE media release.
Snakebusters venomous snakes are alone in Australia in being vet certified surgically devenomized and therefore totally safe. It is for this reason they are known as “Australia’s BEST reptiles”. Noting this important fact (devenomized and safe snakes), the trademarks office (IP Australia) even granted Hoser trademark status to exclusively claim his reptile shows are the best in Australia.
Therefore the DSE media release implying otherwise is a lie.
Hoser today noted, “The DSE’s actions and claims are solely commercially motivated and motivated by malice. There is no public benefit in their legal actions and false claims before, during and since this totally unneccessary court case. The fact is that in over 10,000 reptile shows using the world’s most venomous species, Snakebusters are alone in Victoria with a perfect safety record.”
There are numerous videos on the web and elsewhere of Hoser and others being bitten by the devenomized snakes, including of his daughter taking bites from world’s deadliest snakes to prove they have no venom and dispel false claims to the contrary. This fact has also been confirmed in a document tendered to the court from international reptile expert, Dr. Richard Funk, a USA vet surgeon of decades experience, which was not contested by DSE, Melbourne Zoo or anyone else.
See Funk’s statement posted on the web at: http://www.smuggled.com/Funk1.pdf).
By contrast all Snakebusters competitors have had serious snakebite incidents with their venomous snakes that are not devenomized, thus putting staff and public at risk (illegally) and yet Glenn Sharp and Sharon Webb of the DSE corruptly protects them and do not charge them with clear and ongoing breaches of Wildlife and Safety laws.
For example, Zoos Victoria have had four of their staff hospitalized and given anti-venom for snakebite since 2004 and neither DSE or Worksafe have prosecuted them. These include Glenn Clapton and Byron Manning at Healesville Sanctuary and Jon Birkett of Melbourne Zoo. See details at:
In February 2010, Snakeman Raymond Hoser published a journal paper exposing DSE staff engaging in a fraud involving the famous “Sam the Koala”, of Black Saturday’s bushfires fame, (details linked from:
http://www.smuggled.com/Koala_Sam_Is_A_Fake_An_Imposter_and_Fraud.htm). This paper showed that the stuffed (female) Koala in the Melbourne Museum, is not the same (male) animal filmed drinking a bottle of water after forest fires and also that the water drinking male Koala was a bottle-raised pet held by the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter, planted for the filming and not a random encounter as alleged at the time.
After refusing requests by DSE lawyers to stop distributing the journal, DSE decided to invent criminal charges claiming the barriers Hoser used in his reptile shows didn’t comply with their permit conditions. Secondary charges that Hoser put his animals at risk of theft hinged on an even newer claim that DSE did not allow anyone to hold reptiles at displays, even though all displayers have done this for years and none have been prosecuted. Furthermore the Wildlife Act specifically allows this in the preamble.
Hoser defended the charges in the Ringwood Magistrates court on the basis that the permit conditions did not specify the type of barrier Hoser used, but he lost on the basis of a technicality and was fined by Magistrate Greg McNamara over $30,000, most of it being DSE’s claimed costs of about $20,000.
Unable to fund an appeal, likely to cost over $20,000 to run and with DSE likely to win at least one of the 13 charges due the vague nature of their “particulars”, and therefore able to claim all their costs from Hoser, likely to run in excess of $100,000, Hoser did a deal with the DSE to plead guilty on the basis that DSE drop their false claims that the Hoser devenomized snakes had regenerated venom. As a result of the agreed fact that Hoser had never put anyone at risk, the penalty (including costs to be paid to DSE) was dropped to a third of the original amount. In other words the effective vendetta against Hoser and his company by Sharp and others at the DSE had cost taxpayers in excess of $100,000 when the DSE’s (claimed) legal costs and court running costs are added togeather. This amount should instead have been used for worthwhile conservation or other public benefit activities.
More seriously however, DSE compliance and prosecution heads Glenn Sharp and Sharon Webb continue to corruptly allow the DSE associated entities Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary to show venomous snakes illegally, in breach of Section 32 of the OH and S Act and putting the public at risk. Furthermore, Sharp allows a personal friend of his to also display venomous snakes illegally, even though this friend’s company has had two serious snakebite incidents, including as recently as January this year (resulting in an ambulance trip to hospital), for which no charges have been laid.
The claim in today’s media release that the fines against Hoser should send a message to other demonstrators to comply with DSE’s rules is a lie. The fact is that Sharp himself has been aware of numerous safety breaches by other demonstrators, including demonstrators illegally handing venomous reptiles to the public (that are not devenomized) and putting them at risk and yet has stated as recently as March this year that he will not prosecute them. See transcript link here:
A file of about 5 mb of relevant images of safety breaches by these demonstrators, including Zoos Victoria is on the web at:
The claim in the Sharp and Webb’s media release that Hoser had failed to protect his reptiles against risk of theft is false and even even more ironic.
The fact is that no reptiles were ever stolen or at serious risk of theft at the events subject to the charges.
However, of relevance is that earlier this year, Hoser successfully took out an intervention order against a close friend of Glenn Sharp himself, who had been actively encouraging people to go to Snakebusters shows to steal reptiles. One man who was busted stealing a snake from another event (Mansfield Show on 20 November 2010), on instigation by Sharp’s friend, was caught by police shortly after. Dane Bender is now facing charges.
As a result of posts on a facebook “hate” website entitled “Ray Hoser Melbourne’s biggest Wanker” (removed in July this year), and elsewhere by Sharp’s friend, Hoser successfully took out an intervention order against Glenn Sharp’s friend, to prevent him or associates from attacking Snakebusters displays, including not to attempt to steal reptiles from Hoser’s displays.
Because the “risk of theft” charge (found “proven”) was based solely on the act of allowing persons to hold live (non-venomous) reptiles (refer to transcript excerpt linked here) and Hoser was convicted, the result as it stands, means no displayer in Victoria, (including Melbourne Zoo) is allowed to let anyone hold any animal. No others have been charged by Sharp, but in theory all are now breaking the law daily. As a result Hoser last week lodged Victoria’s first Section 28A application to be allowed to let people hold reptiles. If this is refused (as seems likely) the next battleground will be a VCAT hearing. In 2008 a VCAT judge Anne Coghlan derided “hands-on” with wildlife as a circus, but allowed it to continue on the basis it is a popular educational tool for demonstrators of wildlife in Victoria and all other states.
Snakeman Raymond Hoser today said, “The fact is, we are the best at what we do and Melbourne Zoo, DSE and their closest associates can’t match our standards of education or public safety. Instead they fabricate criminal proceedings and claims and then “deep pocket” us using their taxpayer funded legal powers in order to undermine our successful wildlife education business. It is a cowardly and unfair attack on a man and a company who are environmental education leaders in Australia.”
Hoser also said “It’s a pity that Sharp and Webb, know that as government officers, their lies will be printed verbatim by journalists who fail to check their facts”.
Hoser said “The scandal is that the DSE should be working with Hoser and Snakebusters to promote wildlife conservation. Instead the DSE has shown their true colours as environmental vandals by attacking those they should be supporting and by their false claims and malicious prosecution”.
Hoser noted that DSE’s own credentials with regards to public safety are highly questionable. DSE presided over the Black Saturday bushfires debacle that cost 172 Victorians their lives. The last man to die from venomous snakebite in Victoria was Ron Siggins a DSE endorsed snake handler who worked as an “informant” for DSE.
Hoser is also seeking legal advice with relation to considering defamation action in relation to the recent comments by Sharp, Webb and others at DSE as well as earlier comments by them and other individuals associated with them. In 2006, associates of then DSE enforcement head Ron Waters paid Hoser and his lawyers damages of $29,500 after illegally using his “Snakebuster” trademark.
Snakeman Raymond Hoser is Australia’s unrivalled leading reptile expert. He’s published nine major books, including the “Bible”, Australian Reptiles and Frogs (1989), contributed to dozens of others, published over 200 definitive scientific papers and is easily Australia’s most frequently cited reptile authority (in third person publications). Hoser’s also named dozens of species of snakes, including 9 of 15 known species of Death Adders, many other Australian taxa and species from Africa, Asia and the Americas.
0412 777 211
This media release is posted on the web at:
Other relevant websites:
Snakebusters – Australia’s best reptiles http://www.snakebusters.com.au
Snake Man Raymond Hoser http://www.snakeman.com.au
Australasian Journal of Herpetology http://www.herp.net