Before granting licences for animals we are required to ensure that premises hold animals in appropriate accommodation, that they are supplied with suitable food and drink, and that reasonable precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
Selling animals as pets: snake enclosure sizes
As you may be aware, the Defra Animal Welfare Committee recently completed its year-long investigation and report regarding snake enclosure sizes and welfare. Following extensive study of the evidence and consultation including academic scientists, veterinarians, and trade stakeholders, the AWC report (1) decisively concluded that enclosures must be large enough to allow snakes to fully stretch their bodies at will.
- AWC (2023) Opinion on the space requirements for snakes in vivaria within pet selling establishments. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/awc-opinion-on-the-space-requirements-for-snakes-in-vivaria-within-pet-selling-establishments
In addition, a raft of scientific research and review studies (samples included below) have confirmed that snakes must be able to fully stretch in all enclosures in order to meet with their welfare needs and thus the legal provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (2006). In addition, conditions in which snakes cannot fully stretch are associated with at least 40 stress-related issues; these issues significantly increase the risk of them shedding harmful bacteria to their keepers exacerbating public health and legal concerns (e.g., 2).
- Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salmonella-reducing-infection-from-reptiles/reducing-the-risks-of-salmonella-infection-from-reptiles
Also, any ‘temporary’ conditions should not restrict snakes from the ability to fully stretch for more than 24 hours (e.g., 3).
- Warwick, C., Steedman, C., Jessop, M. & Grant. R. (2023) Defining short-term accommodation for animals. Animals, 13(4):732. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13040732
Enabling snakes to fully stretch their bodies in enclosures is now the global standard minimum housing requirement used in science, and by many sellers, including the US pet industry, and since 2022 also by the Welsh Government.