A snake handler banned from performing live shows after he allowed two deadly snakes to bite his 12-year-old daughter has appealed the decision to Victoria's highest court.
Raymond Hoser, 51, who runs the company Snakebusters and calls himself The Snake Man, appeared today in the Court of Appeal before Justices Robert Redlich, Phillip Priest and Cameron Macaulay to challenge the Department of Sustainability and Environment's decision to cancel his wildlife demonstrators licence.
Justice Redlich told Mr Hoser, who was representing himself, that he needed a lawyer to help get his appeal documents in order or the appeal would most likely be dismissed.
"My expertise is reptiles, not law," Mr Hoser told the court.
He said he had spent his life with reptiles and "to be masqueraded as some sort of crazy criminal who put lives at risk" was overwhelming to him.
Mr Hoser claimed the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Judge Pamela Jenkins, who upheld DSE's decision to ban him, was biased against him.
In her decision handed down last year, Judge Jenkins said Mr Hoser had agreed to have a total of 48 de-venomised snakes microchipped at the DSE's request before he performed a public demonstration at the Melton Shopping Centre using his elapid snakes ( a family of venomous snakes) on July 7, 2011.
"The audience largely comprised schoolchildren," Judge Jenkins said.
"A video of part of that demonstration depicts the applicant (Mr Hoser) intentionally causing two snakes, a death adder and an inland taipan, to bite his 12-year-old daughter.
"In total, approximately seven bites were inflicted by the two snakes, sufficient to draw blood."
The judge said Mr Hoser's commentary during the event included:
"When we do a show like this what would be the worst thing is if a kid got bitten. If a kid got bitten at one of our shows holy moly, however we are the only guaranteed snake show in the country. Going to do the worse case situation. Which is a snake bite. Do you want to be a volunteer? Got a yes there – where is the mother? Anyway I am actually the father here. Going to bring up my wonderful daughter Adelyn– she has never actually been bitten by a snake in her life. She has seen me get bitten a few times ... if you get bitten by one of these you're dead pretty quick.
"We have a permit for this by the way. You die real quick. The reason we're doing this is just to show we are safe. The reason is a rival operator who is trying to undermine us is saying that our snakes have regenerated venom which is not possible. These guys have had key hole surgery and their venom has been removed. Now of course if I get to ... and then they bite her, make the snakes bite her, she should be dead in about 2 minutes. If she is still standing at the end of this show, we know that they have not re-generated
"You will see some blood. Couple of spots of blood here. Ready set go. Ready set go. Couple of spots of blood. In theory she should be passing out in about 10-15 seconds, get your stop watches out. The worse thing that could happen is if you killed your own kid during a snake show. Obviously you would not want to do that. Do not try that at home kids. You can see how she is bleeding – there is something. You see when you are bitten by a venomous reptile of any sort is swelling. No venom, no swelling but she is bleeding. She can go to school next week and say she got bitten by the world's deadliest snake."
Judge Jenkins said in her view, Mr Hoser had demonstrated a tenuous understanding of his responsibilities under the Wildlife Demonstrators Licence and displayed a contempt and reckless disregard for the licence conditions.
"He has conducted his demonstrations in a manner which seriously compromises the welfare of the snakes he is displaying and the safety and wellbeing of audience members, including children, and on one occasion, his own daughter," the judge said.
Justice Redlich said today Mr Hoser, who was fined $12,000 in the County Court in August 2011 for demonstrating with venomous snakes less than three metres from the public and using more than one venomous snake at a time, needed a lawyer to properly articulate the grounds for his appeal given his livelihood was at stake.
The hearing was adjourned to June 13.