Snakes living in near death state

We received a call reporting a dead snake and concern for the welfare of other snakes at a property.

Snake in such a poor condition it looked dead 

Columbian Rainbow boa left for dead in container with dead skin and yellow liquid © RSPCA

RSPCA Inspector Teresa Potter attended a location, where a woman had reported a dead snake in a tub by the front door and other snakes upstairs. The tub was in a black bin liner and contained a Columbian Rainbow boa, with an awful smell coming from the tub. 

The snake’s nostrils were crusted over and it was lying in a stinking yellow liquid containing its faeces, water and shed skin.

Although the woman thought the snake was dead, it was actually still alive.

Three more snakes found in equally poor condition

In an upstairs bedroom there were two vivariums. The bottom vivarium contained a common boa, but there was no heat available. The top vivarium contained two corn snakes – both looked very thin as their spines were clearly visible. There was no heat and only a small amount of water. When asked, the woman said her electricity supply was faulty and she had not fed the snakes for several weeks.

The woman agreed to sign all of the snakes over into our permanent care.

None of the snakes recovered

A veterinary surgeon examined the snakes. He found the common boa was limp, floppy and lethargic. The snake was cold. Three days later it showed little improvement and was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

The first common corn snake was underweight. The expert described it as just skin and bone and said it was one of the worst starved snakes he had seen. It died the following day.

The second common corn snake was also underweight and in a very poor state. It did not eat and made no improvement so was put to sleep on welfare grounds five days later.

Abscesses had eaten into the snakes face

The Columbian Rainbow boa was in a very poor state. It had rotten tissue and pus in its mouth, and abscesses had formed on both nostrils, which had eaten into the face. The snake was struggling to breathe as due to an upper respiratory tract infection and was wheezing and blowing bubbles from the mouth.

The vet cleaned the abscesses and the snake was left with open ulcers where once it had nostrils.

There were necrotic patches on its scales which probably occurred from the environment it was living in. The snake was put to sleep immediately on welfare grounds.

The snakes had been deprived of basic care

The snakes had not been given the basic care needed to keep them in good health. The expert concluded the snakes hadn't been provided with any form of nourishment for months or the heating they required. He concluded the snakes were caused unnecessary pain and suffering.

The 34 year old fast food shop assistant was disqualified from keeping animals for life and received an eight day rehabilitation activity requirement. She was also given a four week curfew and ordered to pay £700 costs.

The defendant was suffering from mental health problems.


  • Investigating officer: RSPCA Inspector Teresa Potter
  • Defendant: Female 34, fast food shop assistant
  • Offences: Animal Welfare Act 2006 s4 and s9
  • Plea: Guilty
  • Convictions: Five
  • Sentence: Disqualified from keeping animals for life; eight day rehabilitation activity requirement; four week curfew order; £700 costs.
  • Prosecuted by: Wykes O'Donnell Williams Solicitors
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