Hundreds of ball python snakes are suffering unnecessary cruelty in the UK after being crammed into small plastic boxes and put up for sale, an animal welfare organisation claims.
World Animal Protection said the shy and nocturnal animals, which are popular exotic pets in the UK, were being denied the space to move properly, as well as being subjected to bright lights and loud noises.
Investigators for the charity found ball pythons at the meetings, held at Doncaster Racecourse, in “tiny” boxes.
It is now urging the venue – home to one of the last reptile markets in the UK – to stop hosting the events, which happen there four times a year and are organised by the International Herpetological Society.
Their report, Suffering in Silence, states that in the UK the exotic pet trade is dominated by reptiles, with an
estimated 200,000 snakes kept in British homes.
It said that ball pythons have complex needs – including the ability to extend the full length of their bodies – and that the only place these could be met properly was in the wild.
It also details how designer snakes (known as morphs) are highly sought after and bred for particular patterns and markings through artificial selective breeding.
But many morphs are known to suffer from severe health issues including painful spinal and skull deformities and nervous system disorders as a result.
Peter Kemple Hardy, Wildlife Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection UK said: “The conditions ball pythons and other reptiles are kept in at the Doncaster reptile market are totally unacceptable and fly in the face of all we know about their welfare needs.
“Ball pythons are sentient wild animals that feel pleasure, distress, excitement, fear and pain. They aren’t products and they shouldn’t be kept in conditions that cause them suffering.
We’re calling on Doncaster Racecourse to stop allowing its venue to be used for reptile markets – wild animals belong in the wild, not sold as pets.”
Dave Arnold, chairman of the International Herpetological Society, said two vets were always present at meetings to check animal welfare.
A spokesman for Doncaster Racecourse said they “always require any external organisations to meet all of the relevant health and safety and animal welfare standards that apply to them.”