Snake on the loose highlights challenges of keeping an exotic pet, warns RSPCA

A snake found loose and rescued by the RSPCA has prompted the animal charity to highlight the difficulties in looking after exotic pets.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:36 pm
Snakes are great escape artists.
Snakes are great escape artists.

The four foot long corn snake - a species native to North America - was found in the car park of a block of flats in Leeds by a member of the public, who called the RSPCA for help.

RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer David Holgate said: “The snake, measuring about four feet long, was definitely not a native species and was later confirmed as a corn snake.

“It was found in a car park linked to a block of flats but we are not sure how it got there.

"Snakes are great escape artists, so it could have been a stray, but if not, it’s likely that it was abandoned.

"Sadly, this isn’t unusual. We do find that many people are unaware of how much of a commitment these animals are when they take them on, which we believe may be why we are rescuing hundreds of reptiles every year.”

Exotic pets - including corn snakes - are wild animals kept in captivity and so their needs are essentially no different to animals of the same species living in the wild.

Those needs can be challenging to meet, especially by members of the public, because they are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a home.

The RSPCA encourages prospective owners of any exotic pet to thoroughly research the animal's needs, using expert sources, and only consider keeping one if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs.

Many of the snakes the RSPCA’s officers are called to collect are thought to be escaped pets. Reptiles, particularly snakes, will take the opportunity of a gap in an enclosure door, or a loose-fitting lid to escape.

The animal charity urges owners to invest in an enclosure suitable for the particular species and for the enclosure to be kept secure (and locked if necessary) when unattended. It is possible to microchip snakes and it is recommended that owners ask their exotics vet to do this, so that their pet can be easily reunited if lost and found.

The RSPCA collects more snakes over the summer months. This is probably due to them becoming more active in warmer weather. Also, at this time of year, some owners will take them outside. While it is good for reptiles to be allowed the opportunity for natural sunlight, owners should ensure that their reptile is kept secure when doing so, as they can warm up and can move very quickly on a sunny day.

David said: “Snakes are completely dependent on their owners for the correct accommodation, heating, lighting and feed, all of which must replicate their wild habitat as closely as possible to keep them healthy and allow them to express their normal behaviour.

"Without proper care they can suffer from serious diseases, dehydration, injuries, parasites, and in severe cases or if left untreated, they can eventually die.

“We would urge anyone who is struggling to cope with their pets to contact their local vet or rescue centre and ask for help.”

The corn snake - rescued on June 10 - was taken to a specialist facility.

For more information on rehoming reptiles visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet. For more information about the care of corn snakes visit https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other/cornsnake.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit their website or call the donation line on 0300 123 8181.