Officials on the hunt for an albino cobra on the loose in Thousand Oaks are warning residents to keep their pets indoors and doors closed to avoid coming across the potentially lethal snake.
Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and local animal control officers were searching for the "very dangerous and venomous" monocled cobra in the neighborhood around the 1300 block of Rancho Lane, where it was last seen after biting a dog.
A bite from the cobra can lead to death in as little as an hour, but that would depend on a person's immune system, said Alfred Aguirre, an officer with the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.
Aguirre advised residents to keep their pets -- whether small as a Chihuahua or big as a Great Dane -- indoors to prevent possible bites. The preferred diet of a cobra, however, consists mostly of rodents, Aguirre added.
Like rattlesnakes, cobras will maintain a defensive posture if provoked.
The dog that was bitten on Monday was taken to a veterinary hospital for treatment, said Brandon Dowling, spokesman for county animal control.
The snake wasn't reported by the injured dog's owner, however, until late Tuesday, Dowling said.
Animal control officials have since been canvassing the neighborhood warning residents of the cobra's possible presence, and have notified the Ventura County Medical Center's emergency center. An antivenom had been located should it be needed, they added.
In California, cobras are restricted animals, meaning a permit is required to own one. And even then, they can be used for only scientific and education purposes, said Janice Mackey, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.
However, local jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, have stricter regulations that ban owning the snakes outright.
"A cobra is pretty darn dangerous," Mackey said.
The owner of the missing snake had not been identified as of midday Wednesday.
"Really, it's just a matter of trying to find the animal," Dowling said.
Jay Brewer, who owns the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, said he didn't understand why someone would own the cobra or keep one in their home.
Where they're permitted, cobras are typically kept in double-locked cages or in a highly-secured, specially outfitted room.
"I am very disturbed," Brewer said. "I don't think there is anything positive about finding a monocled cobra."
The cobra, like other snakes, is likely hiding under pile of junk or under vegetation -- anywhere where it's dark -- and will probably be backed up against something, officials said.
The cobra is active during cooler morning and evening hours, but Dowling recommended keeping all doors closed to keep the snake from entering.
Officials have had no calls from residents of possible snake sightings since it was first reported missing, Dowling said.
Anyone who sees the snake is urged to call authorities at (818) 991-0071. If residents do spot the cobra, Dowling said "we advise them to stay as far away as possible."