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FANGS A LOT! Rise in deadly reptiles on the loose in Ireland.

Byline: By LYNNE KELLEHER

OVER 150 escaped snakes are being recovered every year by animal rescue groups in Ireland because of the public's newfound taste for exotic pets.

It is estimated there are tens of thousands of reptiles in homes all over the country.

Now animal groups have noticed a frightening rise in the number of escaped snakes.

While dog-owners must have a licence there is no paperwork required by the owner of a RATTLESNAKE.

Animal Welfare Foundation manager Ray Cimono said there has been a tenfold increase in the number of escaped snakes in the last ten years.

He said: ''There are no official statistics as people keeping exotic pets don't need a licence, but there are definitely tens of thousands of snakes.

"Most of the snake owners would have barely adequate knowledge.''

He said the foundation even got a call out to a Dublin home where a rattlesnake was being kept.

"There was nothing we could do about it because they are not doing anything illegal.

"It's just insane to be keeping things like that. A snake like that could potentially escape - if someone was killed then maybe the authorities would do something about it."

He said the foundation receives about 100 calls a year from the public to rescue snakes or other reptiles.

"People don't tend to report their snakes missing because they don't know if someone can punish them.

"Hundreds more than we know of probably escape and die," he said.Gillian Bird, spokesperson for the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said they expect to take in up to 50 snakes this year.

She said: "We get in a lot more exotic creatures - snakes, lizards, the odd tarantula.

She said there have been much greater numbers of reptiles arriving at their door over the last five years.

"We now get about 40 or 50 a year. Eight or ten years ago we might get one of two in.

''We've had corn snakes, rat snakes and boa constrictors among others."

Trustee and former chairwoman of the ISPCA, Angela McCartney, who helped draw up a bill to protect exotic animals, said the society have been campaigning for almost a decade to revise legislation.

"We want the Exotic Pets and Dangerous Animals Bill to be made law - it's on the shelf at the moment.

"There is a need for regulation to protect these creatures from suffering - and to protect the public," she said.

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SNAKES ALIVE: Ireland has no law against the keeping of exotic - and even highly venomous - 'pets' like the ones above
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2005
Words:430
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