London, Europe Brief News – More than 300 people were injured in domicile snake attacks in the UK in the last 11 years.
Some 72 of the patients were teenagers or children – 13 were under the age of five.
Most of the people who had been bitten made a complete recovery, but some had to be treated in intensive care. One patient needed part of their finger amputating, and one man died.
The law on keeping dangerous snakes as pets should be tightened up, animal welfare experts demand in this week’s issue of the Vet Record.
The call follows an investigation by the journal, showing that several species of venomous and potentially lethal snakes, such as cobras, vipers, and rattlesnakes, can easily be bought through pet shops in England, but that the licensing arrangements for ownership are somewhat lax.
What’s more, these reptiles are difficult for owners to manage properly at home, and few vets are sufficiently insured or have the relevant expertise to treat them, the investigation reveals.
Under the Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act, it’s perfectly legal to sell venomous snakes to people who don’t have a licence to keep them: the legal onus is, instead, on the purchaser to have obtained a DWA licence from their local authority.
And animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, says that DWA licences may sometimes be issued retrospectively by councils, so enabling reptile collectors to obtain venomous snakes before they become licenced.
President of the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), Peter Kettlewell, points out that there aren’t any legal controls when venomous snakes are purchased in EU countries and brought into the UK either.