There are no free rides on the T, not even for Penelope the snake.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority sent the animal’s owner, Melissa Moorhouse of Allston, a $650 bill for the cost of sanitizing the train, less than two weeks after finding the three-foot Dumeril’s boa in a subway car at the JFK/UMass station.
Moorhouse said Penelope went missing on Jan. 6 after it slithered away from under her scarf and around her neck on the Red Line between the Broadway and Andrew stations.
MBTA Treasurer-Controller Wesley Wallace wrote that the MBTA had to ‘‘scrub and disinfect’’ the car where Penelope was found in order to protect passengers from germs such as salmonella that may have been left by the snake. He cited Centers for Disease Control guidelines that state young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid contact with reptiles or items reptiles have touched.
When reached by phone today, an ‘‘overwhelmed’’ Moorhouse declined to comment on whether she would fight the fine.
MBTA General Manager Richard Davey said Red Line trains are cleaned regularly but this was a special process. He said it is uncommon to bill customers for expenses, but this was an unusual situation.
‘‘The taxpayer spent almost $600, $700 cleaning this train, and while we were pleased to find Penelope and return the snake to her owners, at the same time some customers wrote in with health concerns about the sanitary nature of the car,’’ he said. ‘‘So we took steps to clean it.’’
He noted that the owner had said she would bring the snake on the train again and might not observe T policy about pets and leashes or containers, which he hoped she would avoid, calling travel by T with an uncaged snake ‘‘a little ludicrous.’’
‘‘While I’m not looking to start a war with Penelope and her owners, they have to be accountable for their actions,’’ he said. ‘‘The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for this, and the fare payers shouldn’t.’’
Eric Moskowitz of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
Neal Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the beat
Columnist Kevin Cullen says Bobby Long and Tom Foley did more than the entire FBI to bring Whitey Bulger to justice. Read more