Freedom for Animals, in collaboration with Born Free, the Animal Protection Agency, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and World Animal Protection, has formally reached out to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with a letter, making a critical request to elevate the minimum enclosure dimensions for snakes held captive in pet shops. 

Under the current government guidelines as specified in The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, it is mandated that snakes in pet shops should be confined in enclosures that are a mere two-thirds of the snake's body length. As this legislation, along with its associated statutory guidance, undergoes a post-implementation review, we and our coalition partners are seizing this opportunity to draw DEFRA's attention to the mounting evidence highlighting the urgent need for snakes to have the ability to stretch to their full length. Unbelievably, they are the sole vertebrate animals in England denied this fundamental right under the law. 

Before the enactment of the regulation, the initial draft of the accompanying guidance recommended a higher standard, mandating that enclosures should be equal to the full length of the snake. This higher standard was rightly embraced in Wales but, disappointingly, reduced to just two-thirds of the snake's length by DEFRA in England.

DEFRA's initial rationale for this reduction was based on the claim of evidence contradicting the necessity for snakes to fully stretch. However, the evidence they presented to substantiate this position consisted solely of a single letter, devoid of any conclusive evidence, authored by individuals affiliated with a single veterinary clinic, including snake hobbyists, sellers, and veterinarians.

The need for change is urgent. DEFRA's stance, despite clear guidance from the government's Animal Welfare Committee that underscores the vital importance of allowing snakes to stretch their bodies for their physical and psychological well-being, continues to lean towards deferring to the pet industry. This industry's interests unsurprisingly permit the confinement of snakes in significantly smaller enclosures. Neglecting to heed scientific counsel regarding the well-being of snakes could potentially be considered a breach of due process, with the possibility of facing a judicial review. It is noteworthy that Wales has already successfully implemented spatial requirements for snakes.

The enactment of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act in 2022 rightly acknowledges snakes as sentient beings, like all animals. It is a matter of paramount importance for the welfare of these incredible animals that they are able to stretch their bodies in all dimensions, a necessity overwhelmingly supported by scientific evidence, not to mention the ethical value. 

While Freedom for Animals remains steadfast in our opposition to the keeping of wild animals as pets in any capacity, and will not stop fighting for all animals until a complete ban on the holding animals captive is in place, we are joining the call for DEFRA to urgently revise animal welfare legislation, and ensure that snake welfare is not further compromised by wholly inadequate enclosure standards whilst working towards that ban.

The letter can be viewed in more detail here!

Please sign the petition our friends at PETA have created here!