Dropping the Ball? The Welfare of Ball Pythons Traded in the EU and North America
World Animal Protection, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB, UK
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Abingdon OX13 5QL, UK
Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, All Saints Building, All Saints, Manchester M15 6BH, UK
Emergent Disease Foundation, Suite 114 80 Churchill Square Business Centre, Kings Hill, Kent ME19 4YU, UK
Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, Department Herpetology, Adenauerallee 160, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Department of Conservation Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH—UFZ, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
Brooke, 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52–56 Leadenhall Street, London EC3M 5JE, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 November 2019 / Revised: 13 February 2020 / Accepted: 13 February 2020 / Published: 2 March 2020
Ball pythons (family Pythonidae) are a relatively small species of snake found in west and central Africa. They are popular across the world as exotic pets, particularly in Europe and North America. Snakes are wild animals (i.e., non-domesticated) and have specific requirements for captive living. If they are housed in unsuitable conditions, it could negatively affect their health and wellbeing. Our study aimed to review the housing provided for this species by breeders and sellers advertising their snakes at exotic pet expositions and on YouTube. We assessed how much water, shelter and floor material were provided, as well as hygiene levels, and how much room the snakes had to move. We based our assessment on guidelines provided by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), the world’s first Animal Welfare charity). We found that most of the housing conditions we observed did not meet minimum recommendations. We also found that breeders and sellers did not provide adequate information for new pet owners detailing how to look after their snakes appropriately. We recommend that more research is required to help inform and improve guidelines for keeping snakes in better captive conditions, and that breeders and sellers should provide more guidance for pet owners, to stop Ball pythons kept as exotic pets from suffering.