Feeling Trapped? This Is Life Every Day for Captive Snakes
COVID-19 has us all stuck indoors, pacing around and staring longingly out the window. Right now, we’re being denied the freedom we‘re so used to – and for good reason. But we‘re lucky: no matter how long this outbreak lasts, we know normal life will resume eventually and we’ll have our freedom back. For other animals, however, being held hostage in a tiny space is all they‘ve ever known.
As you read this, are you slouched across your sofa? Sitting comfortably at a desk? Imagine that the ceiling above you descends until it’s so low you can‘t stand up straight. And the walls close in so tight that you can‘t stretch out both of your arms. This is life for countless captive snakes in UK homes, in pet shops, at breeding facilities, and in mobile zoos.
Snakes have homes in just about every corner of the Earth, from Iceland to Argentina. They live in deserts, swamps, jungles, and even the sea. They‘re very in tune with their environments, using vibrations in the earth to “listen“ to their surroundings.
They use their tongues to smell, and they angle the scales on their bodies to climb trees. Just like birds and mammals, snakes are social animals who work together.
Snakes Need Our Help
When we tear snakes from their homes or breed them and confine them to cramped tanks, we strip away everything that‘s natural and important to them. They suffer immensely in captivity. And current regulations do little to help snakes – they‘re the only species not afforded the most basic of considerations in captivity: the right to be housed in enclosures in which they can, at the absolute least, straighten their bodies.
The ability to stretch out fully has been proved to be a significant factor in captive-snake welfare. A new study titled “Spatial Considerations for Captive Snakes“, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, found that for snakes, having the opportunity to extend their bodies is not just important but essential.
Those who aren‘t given even this basic comfort show far more signs of stress and are more likely to suffer from disease and die prematurely. And the British Veterinary Association says that obesity in snakes is common because of a lack of space for them to exercise.
PETA does not encourage people to keep snakes or other exotic animals as “pets“. In even the best cases – in which owners have some understanding of these animals and their needs – a domestic environment can never meet all their basic requirements or provide a meaningful or pleasant life.
However, we‘re also pragmatic, and we recognise that an update to animal welfare regulations to enforce a minimum tank size for captive snakes would make their lives slightly more bearable. And at times like this, when we all have a little bit more of a sense of what these animals endure, we must do what we can to help them.
How Can We Help Snakes?
Never, ever buy a snake or support places that confine them to cramped tanks. And please take action for the estimated 400,000 snakes held captive in the UK today: urge the government to update the law so that snakes exploited in pet shops, in mobile zoos, or by breeders must be housed in tanks in which they can, at a minimum, stretch out to their full body length.