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58 KILLER SNAKES KEPT IN A GARAGE; Tip-off led to court rap.

Nearly 60 of the world's deadliest snakes were kept in an unlocked garage at a suburban semi, a court heard yesterday.

Brave RSPCA inspectors who raided Ian Ramsden's home did not know whether treatments were available if they were bitten by the killer reptiles - including cobras, rattlesnakes and vipers.

The illegal collection of 58 poisonous snakes was discovered in tanks at the house in Sutton, Surrey, where Ramsden lives with his wife and children. One, the saw scale viper, is described by an expert as "the most dangerous snake known to man."

Another, the Australian Colletts tiger snake, has venom 70 times stronger than the western diamond-backed rattlesnake which kills 14 people each year in the United States.

Also found were the dwarf puff adder, Africa's number one killer, and the Asian spitting cobra.

The RSPCA swooped last May after a tip-off. The prosecutor told magistrates at Sutton: "In preparing for the raid officers found that they were not sure whether antidotes would even be available if they were bitten."

Unemployed Ramsden, 34, denies 13 charges of causing animals unnecessary suffering. He is also accused of keeping dangerous reptiles without a licence.

Ramsden supplied specimens for photos in a book by Chris Mattison, a well-known reptile expert. Many of the snakes in his garage were a fraction of the normal weight and others had not been given water for days, the court was told.

A baby South American anaconda, normally found in swamps, was living in "desert-like conditions."

Vet Steve Divey said he saw one one snake, called a water moccasin or cottonmouth, whose drinking bowl was dry.

He added: "Given the dry and dusty nature of its bowl it would seem to me no water had been provided for several days."

The snakes are now recovering in zoos. The case continues.

Last night Paul Rowley, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said the Asian spitting cobra spat venom into its victims' eyes, causing temporary blindness.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Miller, Ian
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 1997
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