Snake owner Steven Riddell jailed for cruelty to live bait

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A man who kept mice, rats and rabbits in appalling conditions to feed to his pet snakes has been jailed for 150 days and banned from keeping animals.

Steven Riddell, 43, was found with 130 small animals stored in cages in a greenhouse at his home in Erskine, Renfrewshire, in April last year.

Many were dead, dying, dehydrated, starving and stuck in their own faeces.

At Paisley Sheriff Court, Sheriff Colin Pettigrew told Riddell his behaviour was "an affront" to animal welfare.

Riddell admitted breaching the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act.

Disqualification order

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

He told Riddell: "Quite frankly, this was an affront to any notion of animal welfare."

The sheriff said that in view of the serious nature of the offences and to provide a warning to others that courts would not tolerate such behaviour, custody was the only option.

At an earlier hearing, Riddell was ordered him to dispose of all of the remaining 37 snakes he had.

The court previously heard that Scottish SPCA inspectors raided Riddell's home following a tip-off.

Inside the greenhouse, under a tarpaulin, they found the animals stored in cages in stifling conditions with little or no ventilation or natural light.

One of the inspectors could only remain inside for a brief moment as she had difficulty breathing.

One cage, which weighed 2kg (4lb) when clean and empty, was caked with a solid mass of droppings mixed with bedding that weighed almost 14kg (31lb).

Atrocious conditions

The only trace 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. Many had respiratory problems.

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

She said she had felt disgusted to think that Riddell "saw them as nothing more than a cheap food source for his reptiles", which appeared to be well cared for inside his house.

The court heard that following the discovery, Riddell had agreed to hand over ownership of all the small animals to the Scottish SPCA.

Many were put down, although some were nursed back to health and re-homed.

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