Man arrested for illegally releasing venomous cobra in North Texas last year, police say

The West African Banded Cobra has yet to be captured

Pictured is Lawrence Matl, 23. (KSAT)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Last summer, a venomous West African Banded Cobra escaped from its enclosure in North Texas, causing concern and fear among residents and police.

Authorities still have yet to locate the snake, but they have found and arrested its owner for illegally releasing his dangerous pet into the public, according to Grand Prairie police.

Lawrence Matl, 23, was arrested Friday in the 1800 block of Cherry Street without incident on a warrant for violating the “Release from Captivity” code under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The violation is considered a Class A misdemeanor, according to GPPD.

Matl previously claimed his snake escaped its enclosure due to a “caging malfunction,” The Dallas Observer reports. However, he’s accused of releasing his pet snake either “on purpose, negligently or purportedly.”

The snake disappeared from its enclosure on Aug. 3, 2021, from Matl’s residence, according to Grand Prairie police.

GPPD took to social media, warning residents of the venomous snake on the loose and to be on the lookout in case they spotted it around town.

News Release - Dangerous Missing Snake On Tuesday, August 3, 2021 at around 6:30 P.M., Grand Prairie Animal Services...

Posted by Grand Prairie Police on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Area hospitals were also notified of the snake’s disappearance in case someone came in with a snakebite injury.

Exotic snakes are permitted in the state of Texas; however, owners must obtain a permit issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. You can learn more about the permits and their requirements here.

Matl is being held at a detention center and his bond is set at $10,000. If convicted, he could face up to a year behind bars and a fine of up to $4,000, according to The Dallas Observer.

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About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.