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Government urged to ‘give snakes some space’
“Snakes often get a raw deal in society and are generally misunderstood, mis-sold and mistreated by the pet industry" - Elaine Todd, APA.

Vets call on Defra to reinstate rule on minimum housing requirements

An ad-hoc group of veterinary surgeons and biologists are calling on the government to reinstate a rule that allows captive snakes to stretch out in their enclosures.

The call comes as new Animal Welfare licensing regulations come into force, which cover the sale of pet snakes. The legislation was put together with input from stakeholders who agreed that snakes should be kept in containers at least the length of their bodies.

But while the provision had been included in the draft guidelines for almost a year, animal welfare campaigners say Defra pulled the regulation at the last second, ‘on the basis of one protest from a veterinary clinic closely associated with the pet trade’.

In a press release, the Animal Protection Agency (APA) said the action ‘followed somewhat ‘pally’ correspondence between Defra officials and the pet business correspondent who provided minimal, unscientific and gravely flawed opinion, which Defra accepted without proper consultation or any verification.’

The ad hoc scientific group includes leading veterinary and biological experts on snake welfare, who argue that the scientific evidence contradicts the comments provided to Defra by the pet business owner.

"Despite there being no formal requirement to favour business over animal welfare in this context, Defra's so-called ‘Animal Welfare' division seems to be trying to swindle snakes out of the space they need - just to keep the pet industry happy,” said Elaine Todd, biologist and director of the APA.

“Snakes often get a raw deal in society and are generally misunderstood, mis-sold and mistreated by the pet industry. For example, snakes are commonly kept (stored) by breeders and hobbyists in minimalistic ‘racks' (plastic drawers) with keepers stating that if they eat and breed well they must be "thriving".

“Their ‘need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns' as stipulated in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the many recognised physical and stress-related diseases associated with keeping snakes in such enclosures are conveniently side-stepped for the sake of convenient stocking.”

She continued: “No one would accept cats or dogs being confined in enclosures just large enough to stretch out in - and yet the UK government is trying to deny snakes even this basic need. As the newly formed ad hoc scientific group states, it is "scientifically and morally unacceptable that snakes should remain the only animal group prevented by flawed evidence and policy from fully stretching their bodies in captivity".

Responding to the APA’s comments, a Defra spokesperson said the current standards on snake welfare remain in effect to protect the animals involved. It added that there is also still a provision in place that means if an animal for sale is kept for a period of more than three months, it must be moved to an enclosure size which fits bets practice for keeping that animal

“We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, including for snakes and other reptiles,” said Defra, “While the issue of snake enclosure was raised during our extensive consultation with stakeholders, there is insufficient evidence to support introducing further rules.”

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Big Butterfly Count returns

News Story 1
 The world's biggest survey of butterflies is back for 2020!

Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count launches on Friday, 17 July and will run until Sunday 9 August. Members of the public can get involved by downloading the Big Butterfly Count App or recording results on a downloadable sheet available from bigbutterflycount.org/.

'It's a fantastic activity for people from three to 103 years and we'd encourage everyone to take 15 minutes in an appropriate outdoor space during sunny conditions to simply appreciate the nature around them and do their bit to help us understand butterfly populations,' said a Butterfly Conservation spokesperson. 

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News Shorts
WellVet reopens ticket sales to online conference platform

Following the success of its online conference, the organisers behind WellVet Weekend have re-opened ticket sales to allow new delegates to access session recordings and its online networking platform.

The day-long conference saw more than 360 veterinary professionals mix activity sessions with personal development CPD, all hosted within a virtual conference platform. Now, with more than 500 minutes of CPD available, the resource is being re-opened to allow full access to the session recordings until May 2021.

Sessions are aimed at providing delegates with a range of proactive wellbeing tools to explore to find ways of improving their mental and physical health. Tickets are limited in number and on sale at wellvet.co.uk until 30th August 2020.