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Rolly: Utah snake savior seeking a home — again — for his slithering sidekicks

First Published      Last Updated May 29 2017 01:07 pm

This is a whole different take on the homelessness problem. And the population in peril constitutes those whom even a mother wouldn't love.

We're talking about snakes, lizards, turtles and other reptiles — some exotic — that have been saved from doom through the years by Jim Dix, a plumber and self-taught zookeeper who has a fondness for these rejects and provided them a home.

But rules, regulations and bureaucracies are closing in on Dix and his Reptile Rescue Service. He faces a choice of insurmountable government fines or destroying the 140 or so animals in his care.

The quandary is this: Dix twice has been forced to relocate his menagerie — once to make way for government-induced progress and another to continue the rescue operation while still being able to keep his job.

But now, after moving to Magna, he is in a bureaucratic Catch-22. He can't get a business license from Salt Lake County until he gets a state permit from the Division of Wildlife Resources to house the animals. But he can't get the state permit until he works out zoning issues with the county.

Dix is renting two locations in Magna, one where he keeps about 125 reptiles in cages, aquariums and tanks, and another for a handful of mammals (a coyote, two wolves, two foxes and four raccoons) that for various reasons cannot be returned to the wild.

For 20 years, Dix has been rescuing endangered critters or taking them off the hands of animal-control agencies.

He has developed his self-made zoo into a support service that has trained law enforcement officers how to deal with dangerous reptiles, hosted educational opportunities for school groups and extricated wandering reptiles, including an alligator or two, from homes, yards and parks.

He and his slithering pals were living happily in a friendly-zoned area of West Valley City until the property was condemned six years ago for the Mountain View Corridor highway project.

He finally found a welcoming haven in Delta, but his plumbing business is centered along the Wasatch Front and it became too much for him to drive back and forth.

So Dix, one of a handful of Utahns licensed to handle venomous reptiles, recently found the two spots in Magna and attempted to renew his DWR permit to house the animals.

But after an inspection, DWR determined that the locations were too close to homes, endangering humans in the neighborhood, according to agency spokesman Mark Hadley.

Without the state permit, he can't get a business license, which he needs to start the process for getting a variance from the zoning restrictions, according to county planning boss Rolen Yoshinaga.

So, starting April 25, the landlord housing Dix's reptiles, which is in a commercially zoned area, is being fined $100 a day until the animals are moved. The landlord keeping the mammals, which is in a residentially zoned area, is being fined $50 a day.

Yoshinaga said the county hopes for a resolution that can satisfy everyone and lead to a mitigation of the fines, which were initiated to spur things along.

Meanwhile, Dix is again searching for a hassle-free location.

Careful what you wish for • Since Rob Anderson was elected the Utah Republican Party's chairman Saturday, some hardcore defenders of the caucus-convention nominating system have taken to social media to denounce the outcome and decry the fact that Anderson signed the Count My Vote petition for direct primaries.

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