Animal Organisations Threaten DEFRA With Legal Action Over Snake Housing Rules

Animal Organisations Threaten DEFRA With Legal Action Over Snake Housing Rules

London – A group of animal charities has sent a letter (available here) to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), warning that legal action may be taken if the department fails to reflect scientific advice in its guidelines for minimum enclosure sizes for snakes. Currently, snakes are the only animals who are permitted to be kept in enclosures in which they cannot stretch out to the full length of their bodies. The groups are asking DEFRA to require that snakes be housed in enclosures that are at least as long as they are, as per advice from the government’s expert group, the Animal Welfare Committee.

Around 400,000 snakes are kept in homes throughout the UK, and many more are contained in pet shops, breeding facilities, and mobile zoos. The letter points out that housing snakes in an environment in which they can’t fully stretch out has proved to cause stress, illness, and death, yet DEFRA has indicated that it will defer to the pet trade’s weak standards, which allow snakes to be kept in much smaller enclosures for months at a time. This is despite the minimum space requirement having already been successfully implemented in Wales.

“[F]ailing to provide a snake with an enclosure that provides them the ability to fully stretch in all dimensions could constitute a breach under the Animal Welfare Act 2006,” writes Advocates for Animals solicitor Edie Bowles. ““[DEFRA] appears to demonstrate a preference for evidence provided by the pet industry, while overlooking or dismissing evidence from independent bodies that counter industry interests.”

“Keeping snakes in cramped enclosures where they can’t even stretch out their bodies is physically and psychologically damaging, just as it would be for any other animal,” says PETA Senior Campaigns Manager Kate Werner. “which is why we are calling on DEFRA to listen to the scientific evidence, not the pet trade, and require that snakes be kept in enclosures at least as long as their bodies.”

The letter was sent on behalf of the Animal Protection Agency, the Born Free Foundation, Freedom for Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and World Animal Protection.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, or Instagram.


Jennifer White +44 (0) 20 7837 6327; [email protected]