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Dangerous snake laws need constricting

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By Josh Loeb and Shanin Leeming

Reptile welfare experts, including the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), want laws on keeping dangerous snakes tightened up, arguing that it is often impossible to provide such animals with veterinary care.

Their call follows a Vet Record investigation that found several venomous snake species being advertised for sale by pet shops (see opposite page).

King cobras, gaboon vipers, pit vipers and rattlesnakes – all capable of causing death through venom – are among the snakes being sold perfectly legally to collectors by shops located on English high streets.

Under the Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act, it is not illegal to sell venomous snakes to people who do not have a licence to keep them – the legal onus is, instead, on the purchaser to have obtained a DWA licence from their local authority.

The RSPCA says it is concerned that DWA licences may sometimes be issued retrospectively by councils, thus enabling reptile collectors to obtain venomous snakes before they become licensed.

Some vets are also of the view that the practicalities of dealing with such dangerous animals mean it is often impossible to provide for their welfare needs. Veterinary Public Health Association council member Mike Jessop, who carries out pet shop inspections on behalf of several local authorities and …

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