ST. PETERS, MO (KTVI) - A St. Charles County couple is facing child endangerment charges for raising their kids in a house literally overrun with snakes, rats, and mice. Neighbors say Anthony and Michelle Higgins told them authorities got involved after their kids were teased at school about the smell.
It was last Saturday, after receiving a report about the conditions the kids were living in that authorities showed up at the family’s home on Oak Bend Lane in St. Peters. A deputy’s initial trip inside tells the story.
“All I can tell you is the sheriff’s deputy that went in gagged and had to go outside and throw up,” county spokesman John Sonderegger said, “then he came back in with oxygen from fire and rescue people. And the state family and children’s services worker got in there and she got sick, too, so it was a mess.”
Inside they found 132 snakes, five lizards, 20 geckos, 12 meal worms, and between 800 and 1000 mice and rats.
Keeping the reptiles, for the moment, is not against any law in St. Charles county, but keeping kids in allegedly filthy conditions is.
Next door, Luke Scherrer and his wife have a snake and a couple of geckos of their own. They say they bought mice from Higgins to feed them. They didn’t know just how many animals were inside, but say they did sometimes smell the Higgins home from their house.
They say they have a hard time understanding the child endangerment charges the Higgins’ are facing. They say the 13 and 15 year old kids seemed well cared for.
“I don’t think the kids were in any kind of danger,” Scherrer said. “I think eleven hundred animals is too many animals to have around any family. Especially snakes. “
The couple’s children are said to be staying with a relative for the time being while the legal charges are dealt with.
As for the snakes, authorities allowed Higgins to get them out. He put them in the care of the St. Louis Herpetological Society. Society president Steve Brown says the animals still belong to Higgins, and describes them as having been well cared for.