Surge in UK runaway snakes as number kept as pets increases by 200k in 2023

Surge in UK runaway snakes as number kept as pets increases by 200k in 2023


There has been a "surge" in runaway snakes in the UK in 2023 as the number kept as pets increased to nearly one million.

The news comes after a 12-foot python was spotted slithering down a street in West Bromwich on Tuesday.

The RSPCA was unable to attend so police response officers were forced to step in to detain the reptile.

RSPCA issues snake warning

The RSPCA has previously issued warnings about snakes advising exotic pet owners to be extra vigilant and keep their snakes securely contained "as hot weather can make the animals very active and more likely to escape".

In 2021 there were 1,219 reports of pet snakes escaping.

A surge in runaway snakes in Britain has been caused by the weather and some 200,000 more of the reptiles being kept as pets this year.

Most recently in the West Midlands, a huge 12ft python had to be removed from the street by police 🐍

Is it time to ban exotic pet ownership?

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 7, 2023

Fast forward to 2023 and this year alone there has been an extra 200,000 snakes being kept as pets according to Good Morning Britain (GMB).

This GMB said took the total number of snakes being kept as pets to nearly one million.

RSPCA Scientific Officer, Evie Button, said: "Snakes are excellent escape artists and will take the opportunity of a gap in an enclosure door, or a loose-fitting lid to make a break for it.

"(In 2021) we took over 1,200 reports about snakes, with the highest number of calls coming in during the summer months. This is not surprising, as snakes become more active during hot weather.

"So we would urge all pet snake owners to be extra vigilant at this time of year, invest in an enclosure suitable for the particular species and make sure that the enclosure is kept secure - and locked if necessary - when unattended.

"Another reason why more snakes escape in the summer is that some owners take them outside to take advantage of the natural sunlight.

"While sunlight is good for reptiles, the RSPCA urges owners to ensure that their pet is kept secure when doing so, as they can warm up and move very quickly on a sunny day.

"Many of the snakes the RSPCA's officers are called to collect are thought to be escaped pets."

But it's not just snakes that have escaped captivity that are the problem, sadly there are also cases of pet owners abandoning their reptile friends.

Ms Button continued: "Sadly, we also have to deal with a lot of abandoned snakes. We 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 called out to deal with hundreds of animals every year who have sadly been abandoned when their owners can no longer meet their needs.

"Exotic pets such as snakes often end up in the RSPCA's care after people realise they're not easy to care for, or the novelty wears off.

"Others are rescued after they have been abandoned or released on purpose, which then could pose a risk to our native wildlife."

GMB debates whether snakes should be kept as pets

With a surge in pet snakes escaping their homes and roaming loose in the UK, GMB debated whether it was time to ban exotic pet ownership.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) representative Chelsea Monroe on GMB said "Snakes do not make good pets".

There are only three snakes native to the UK - adder, smooth snake and grass snake. (Image: Getty Images)

She added: "They belong in rainforests or desserts, woodland spaces, wide open spaces not in cramped tanks in someone's home."

Ms Monroe added they have special needs like regulated temperatures, special diets and require lots of space.

She agreed with the RSPCA in that once the novelty for pet owners wore off, they would just release their pet snakes, which was not the right thing to do.

Ms Monroe said: "I think once the novelty of having an exotic pet wares off and people realise the responsibilities that come with them and the expenses that come with them too, because you have to keep the tank running 24 hours a day, often when that novelty wares off they're abondoned and neglected."

In a poll on their X (formerly Twitter) account 74% of people said yes there should be a ban on exotic pets while 26% said no there shouldn't be.

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There are only three types of snakes native to the UK - an adder, a grass snake and a smooth snake.

There have also been a number of wild adder sightings across the UK in recent months resulting in the deaths of numerous dogs.

The RSPCA said if anyone finds a snake they believe is non-native they should keep a safe distance, monitor the snake and call the charity's helpline on 0300 1234 999 or a local reptile charity will also be able to help.

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