In a scene lifted straight from Monty Python, a Blackpool man bought a snake he was told was 'resting' - only to find it was dying from a broken spine.
Christopher Morris bought Phoebe, a two-year-old corn snake, from Darren Pike after seeing her for sale on Facebook. When Pike brought the snake round, Mr Morris asked why she was lying so still, and was told that she was having a rest.
However she actually had a broken spine, and died within 24 hours. Pike has now been convicted of three charges of animal cruelty.
"I saw the advert for the snake and agreed to pay £30 for her. Pike came round to my home with it," Mr Morris told the hearing.
"When he came round previously he stayed for quite a long time and handled my scorpions. This time he could not get his money and get out fast enough. He must have known something was wrong with the snake. I picked up the snake and it was lifeless like a shoe string."
Mr Morris took the snake back to Pike's house and demanded his money back, and was given £24. But he was concerned about the snake's welfare, and contacted the RSPCA. Inspectors visited, and Phoebe was rushed to a specialist reptile vet, where she later died.
According to the Blackpool Gazette, Pike claimed he had had Phoebe since a baby, but had started to sell his snakes after moving back to his mother's house. He wasn't just after a quick buck, he said.
Pike has been banned from keeping animals for a year, fined £640 and ordered to pay £1,060 costs.
The RSPCA says it has concerns about exotic animals such as snakes being kept as pets because it's so difficult to meet their needs. It is, though, your legal duty to do so.
"Much of the guidance for captive reptile and amphibian husbandry currently espoused on internet forums and 'care sheets' is unfortunately geared towards convenience of keepers rather than animal welfare," says Elaine Toland, director of the Animal Protection Agency (APA), which campaigns against the exotic pet trade.
"This may be one reason why at least 75% of reptiles die within their first year in the home."
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