An exotic pet owner dumped three snakes in a bin outside a school after seeing the electricity bill to heat their tanks, a court heard yesterday.
Samuel Newton, 35, stuffed the 5ft long Royal Pythons in supermarket carrier bags and drove to St Augustine’s secondary school in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, on the morning of June 29 this year.
He abandoned the pythons, which he had cared for for years, in a 3ft long cast iron litter bin because it was a public place where he hoped they would soon be found.
Two were recovered by a “snake expert” called out by police when members of the public raised the alarm at 3.15pm, a few hours after Newton dumped the pets at 9am.
But a third was found near the same spot the next day after being on the loose for 24 hours.
“Fortunately, not in the school playground,” said prosecutor Martin Butterworth.
The bench was told Pythons were not venomous, but killed small prey by asphyxiation.
But presiding magistrate Alan Kay told Newton: “It’s a rather bizarre matter.
“But it is the manner in which they were deposited outside a school which to us is a concern.
“Imagine a child coming across a 5ft snake. They would not be comfortable with the situation.”
Mr Butterworth said it was aggravating feature that the offence was committed during a school day on June 29.
He added: “It was the fact it was next to a school and one of the snakes appears to have got out the bin before the other had been seen and remained in the locality – fortunately, not in the school playground.”
Newton came forward following a police appeal.
He initially claimed he had asked a pal to take the snakes to a pet shop but confessed what he had done after cops spoke to the pet shop owner.
Ian Brickman, mitigating, said: “This is a very bizarre and unusual case. This is a person of impeccably good character.
“He has had the snakes for five or six years and kept them in the appropriate vivariums.
“At the time of the offence things had really got on top of him.”
Despite working long hours in a shop, he was taking home only £1,000 a month and was responsible for all the energy bills.
“He was struggling to provide the snakes with the time needed for their care and struggling with the cost of heating,” Mr Brickman added.
“He says he simply snapped.”
The snakes were unharmed and have since been rehomed.
Newton, from Scarborough, admitted abandoning the snakes, an offence under the animal welfare act.
He was fined £384 with a £154 surcharge and £84 costs. He was also banned from keeping reptiles for seven years.
PC Graham Bilton, North Yorkshire Police’s wildlife crime officer for the Scarborough area, investigated the incident.
He said: “The actions of Newton were wholly irresponsible and illegal, and on his own admission were ‘disgusting’.”
RSPCA Inspectorate National Wildlife Coordinator, Geoff Edmond, said: “This case highlights what we fear is happening in that the rising costs of keeping pets – including insurance, veterinary fees, food costs and energy bills, which are particularly relevant to exotic pets that require specific heat and light sources – will lead to situations like this where pet owners are being forced to give up or abandon their animals.
“Our Animal Kindness Index identified that 78% of pet owners fear the cost of living will impact their animals and 19% are worried about how they’ll afford to feed their pets. Nevertheless, at no time should animals be abandoned.”