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Zoo owner charged with feeding puppies to snake

A roadside zoo owner accused of feeding live puppies to his snakes, alligators and large cats was charged Friday with cruelty to animals.

Agents from a bevy of law enforcement agencies descended on Steel City Zoo, about 60 miles west of Tallahassee, to arrest owner Romulus Scalf, 54.

"I want the world to know . . . I'm being harassed," Scalf yelled to reporters as deputies escorted him, handcuffed, to a patrol car. "I have not abused animals."

Bail was set at $10,000; Scalf faces up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Animal rights activists said Scalf was being cruel, but he said he was just doing what nature intended.

"It don't matter how that dog dies. It dies, if it's killed, regardless of the Humane Society kills it, or regardless of a snake kills it," Scalf recently told the News Herald of Panama City.

He said he has fed the snakes, up to 15 feet in length, no more than five unwanted puppies that people have dropped off at the zoo in this Florida Panhandle hamlet.

"But I see no wrong in it," Scalf said. "I mean, which is best? Just take them out here and set them beside the highway and let cars run over them and they lay there out on the road in the sun for hours dying?

"Give them to the Humane Society and let them bust them in the head and throw them in a incinerator? Or give them to the snake and let the snake get a meal off of it?"

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could close the zoo, has filed an administrative complaint against it. It is home to hundreds of animals.

The USDA has cited several violations. The pending complaint is based in part on a March 27 inspection by the World Society for the Protection of Animals.