Man kept animals in squalor to feed 50 pet snakes

Steven Riddell had 50 snakes taking up one room in his Erskine home. Picture: Neil Hanna
Steven Riddell had 50 snakes taking up one room in his Erskine home. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Animal welfare inspectors found 130 animals including mice, rats and rabbits kept in filthy conditions by a reptile collector who used his greenhouse to breed them as “live” food for the 50 snakes with which he filled a room of his home.

Steven Riddell is to be been banned from keeping animals at the property he shares in Park Green, Erskine, with his wife and four children after Paisley Sheriff Court heard of the conditions the animals had to endure.

This was an affront to any notion of animal welfare

Sheriff Colin Pettigrew

Scottish SPCA inspectors found it was stifling inside the greenhouse as a tarpaulin had been used to cover it. One of the inspectors could only remain inside for a brief moment as she had difficulty breathing in the oxygen-starved interior, which stank of stale ammonia from droppings and urine that filled the cages and containers.

One cage, which weighed 2kg when clean and empty, was caked with a solid mass of droppings mixed with bedding that weighed almost 14kg.

Riddell, 43, admitted he had seen the animals as a cheap source of food for his snakes and did not care that some of them were dead and dying.

By comparison, the snakes he kept inside his home appeared well cared for.

Inside the greenhouse, rats and mice, some with young which were lying on top of faeces, and one half-entrapped in compacted droppings, were kept in squalor in cages stacked from floor to ceiling.

Two mice were alive but paralysed. In some of the cages, faeces and urine was found to be six to eight inches in depth.

The only traces of drinking water found was coated in green algae. Some of the rats and mice were found to have bite and scratch marks and others had parts of their tails missing.

Riddell admitted the catalogue of neglect and pleaded guilty to two contraventions of the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act of causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide adequate care, nutrition, water and clean bedding.

He agreed to hand over ownership of all the animals, many of which were put down, although some were nursed back to health and re-homed.

Riddell, who is unemployed, accepted the conditions were disgusting and unacceptable but maintained he had “taken his eye off the ball” due to a series of family problems which had preoccupied him.

He said he had been feeding the animals dog food and household scraps, said he knew that some of them were in poor health but had not sought veterinary attention as they were “only food for my reptiles”.

A senior Scottish SPCA inspector later said that in all of her many years or service, she had never seen animals being kept in such atrocious conditions.

The court was told that after some concerns had been expressed about possible improvements to his reptile room he now had only 37 snakes.

Sheriff Colin Pettigrew told Riddell he is satisfied a disqualification order should be made to prevent him owning, keeping or dealing in any animals, apart from the household dog.

He has ordered him to dispose of all of the remaining 
37 snakes which he has and to return to court on 26 May for final disposal.

Sheriff Pettigrew said: “You should be aware that custody is as competent disposal 
here. Quite frankly, this was an affront to any notion of animal welfare.”