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RSPCA prosecutes Cheshire man who neglected six large pythons

A Cheshire man who failed to provide adequate care for six large pythons has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Vincent Parkes failed to look after the pythons who were left in under-sized vivariums, without water and adequate heating, at a garage at his sister’s property in the Leftwich area of Northwich. They developed various ailments as a result of their mistreatment and one of the reptiles later died. RSPCA inspectors also found the remains of several other snakes in some of the vivariums. 

Parkes, (D.o.B 3.6.1989), of Adlington Drive, Northwich, appeared for sentencing at Chester Magistrates’ Court on May 22 after two charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 were proven against him when he failed to attend a previous court hearing.

As well as the 18-week prison term, which was suspended for 18 months, a district judge banned Parkes from owning animals for 10 years. At the same hearing the defendant also received an eight-week suspended prison sentence for three non-animal cruelty offences, which will run consecutively, making his total sentence one of 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months.

When RSPCA inspectors Naomi Morris and Nadine Pengilly attended the Leftwich property on December 3, 2021 they found several snakes had perished in two of 16 vivariums that were crammed into the garage.

Inspector Pengilly said in a statement to the court: “When I approached the garage I could smell the strong smell of death coming from inside. The garage was full of vivariums with the top one having several snakes lying on top of each other - all these reptiles  looked dead.”

The court heard how while the inspectors were at the property, Parkes ran off with a large plastic tub in which he appeared to have put the dead snakes in.

The inspectors recovered six large reticulated pythons from the vivariums, none of which were large enough for their needs, while the temperatures inside them were too low, ranging from 14 to 15 C (centigrade).

One of the rescued pythons, who was in an emaciated state, later passed away. The other snakes were also either underweight, suffering from skin issues or both.

Inspector Morris said: “The tanks were around 8 by 2 feet and there was no water in any of them. The wiring looked jumbled up and although the heat was on all of these tanks were plugged into extension leads that ran off one cable attached to the house. I had never seen an electrical set-up like this before and was concerned about its safety.

“The doors of the garage were hanging off the frame, which had come away from the brickwork so the tanks would have been exposed to the cold.”

A veterinary surgeon specialising in exotic animals stated that it was highly likely that “prolonged inactivity” from being in an under-sized vivarium was a factor in the severe constipation that was found in the colon of one of the six snakes that died.

Rotten lamb carcasses, one infested with maggots, were found in two of the tanks and all tanks were filthy.

Most of the pythons were in a poor body condition with the one who died weighing just 5.1kg. Three of the others who survived were underweight with prominent spines - they weighed 14.3kg, 12.3 kg and 8.1kg. Another weighed 24.5kg, while only one was deemed to be in a healthy state and weighed 28.4kg.

The vet concluded: “These snakes did not have a suitable environment. Not one of the reptiles was living in temperatures near to those necessary for this species. The size of the enclosures was unsuitable and there was a lack of water and adequate nutrition, as well as a lack of veterinary treatment. The health of these animals was allowed to deteriorate over weeks to months without intervention.”

The court heard that Parkes told the inspectors that “he had a mate checking in on the snakes” while he was away on a two-week holiday and that his mother and sister “kept on turning the electricity off”. 

The defendant was also ordered to attend 35 rehabilitation activity days and complete 80 hours of unpaid work. He will also have to pay a victim surcharge of £154 as well as court costs of £1,000.

After they were recovered from the property, the surviving snakes were taken into the care of Cheshire Reptile Rescue.

Parkes was convicted of the following offences:

  1. That on a day or dates between the 2 November 2021 and 4 December 2021 in Leftwich, Northwich, you did cause unnecessary suffering to protected animals, namely 6 reticulated pythons by failing to do an act, namely meeting their basic needs in one or a combination of the following ways:

    1. suitable environment

    2. lack of adequate heat

    3. lack of water

    4. lack of adequate humidity

    5. poor hygiene

    6. lack of appropriate parasite control

    7. to investigate and address the causes of their poor bodily condition and weight loss

...and that you knew or ought reasonably to have known that that failure would have the effect of causing unnecessary suffering or be likely to do so. Contrary to section 4 subsection 1 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 

  1. That on and before the 3 December 2021 in Leftwich, Northwich, you did fail to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure the needs of animals for which you were responsible, namely 6 reticulated pythons were met to the extent required by good practice in that you failed to meet their  needs in one or a combination of the following ways:

    1. their need for a suitable environment

    2. their need for a suitable diet, including fresh drinking water

    3. their need for an a suitable temperature

    4. their need for a suitable level of humidity

    5. their need to be maintained in an appropriate body condition

    6. their need for adequate care and supervision in respect of the protection  of the animals

    7. their need for adequate parasite control

    8. their need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease due to a lack of appropriate hygiene controls

Contrary to section 9 subsection 1 of the animal welfare act 2006.

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