Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 10:16 am
Last week, Doncaster City Council issued a formal caution to snake dealer Paul Milner of Urban Constrictors, based in York, for illegally trading animals at a reptile market held at Doncaster Racecourse on 19 September 2021.
Evidence of the illegal activity was collected by the Animal Protection Agency, with support from World Animal Protection, who filmed Milner in the act of offering snakes for sale at the event.
The Pet Animals Act 1951 prohibits the ‘carrying on a business’ of selling pet animals over market stalls. However, sellers at reptile markets often pose as private individuals selling a few of their own surplus pets to avoid breaking the law.
Despite claiming to not be carrying on a business, Milner boasted on his YouTube channel three years ago of a £100,000 target for his snake breeding business, Urban Constrictors.
The reptile market has since moved to Rotherham where campaigners allege more illegal selling has taken place. Scientists have described the treatment of animals at reptile markets as “tantamount to animal abuse” due to the inhumane conditions, with snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles typically displayed and sold in small, plastic, takeaway boxes which they can barely turn or move around in.
Doncaster City Cllr Dave Shaw commented: “I am immensely grateful to the legal team at Doncaster City Council for pursuing the case and securing this outcome. The clear purpose of the law is to prevent animal suffering, but local councils are having to grapple with Defra-issued guidance that is overly complex and confusing, and often allows animal suffering to continue. The government needs to give local council inspectors better tools to prevent this type of illegal animal selling.”
Elaine Toland from the Animal Protection Agency added: “To any right-minded person, trading sensitive wild animals in tiny plastic tubs is deplorable at the best of times, let alone in bustling markets where the animals are even more stressed. This case sends a message that anyone trading reptiles at these markets does so at risk of prosecution. We need more local councils to take legal action against such sellers, and venues to refuse to accommodate the events.”
Peter Kemple-Hardy from World Animal Protection also commented: “We are pleased that Doncaster City Council examined our evidence, conducted their own investigation and concluded that the law had been broken. But this is by no means an isolated case. Illegal selling of animals at reptile markets is widespread, blatant and unchecked, and animals are suffering in their thousands. I am convinced that without commercial sales of animals, these events simply would not exist.”
Animal protection groups are further concerned by Milner’s offer of business help and advice, via paid subscriptions, despite having admitted to trading animals unlawfully.
Doncaster City Council have called on the national government to do more to prevent reptile markets, where campaigners claim criminal activity is rife.
For more information, please contact Elaine Toland on 01273 674253 or out of hours on 07986 535024. Images available on request.