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Article

Getting It Straight: Accommodating Rectilinear Behavior in Captive Snakes—A Review of Recommendations and Their Evidence Base

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Emergent Disease Foundation, Suite 114, 80 Churchill Square Business Centre, King’s Hill, Kent ME19 4YU, UK
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School of Applied Sciences, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Rd, London SE1 0AA, UK
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School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC 3552, Australia
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Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education) Department, Murdoch University, Mandurah, WA 6210, Australia
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Colorado Reptile Humane Society, 13941 Elmore Road, Longmont, Colorado, CO 80504, USA
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Veterinary Expert, P.O. Box 575, Swansea SA8 9AW, UK
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Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital, 2340 E Beardsley Road Ste 100, Phoenix, Arizona, AZ 85024, USA
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Advocates for Snake Preservation, P.O. Box 2752, Silver City, NM 88062, USA
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Freelance Consultant, 7724 Glenister Drive, Springfield, VA 22152, USA
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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, FL 32218, USA
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Dewdney Animal Hospital, 11965 228th Street, Maple Ridge, BC V2X 6M1, Canada
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Notting Hill Medivet, 106 Talbot Road, London W11 1JR, UK
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Facultad deMedicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Avenida Insurgentes Sur s/n, Ciudad Universitaria CDMX, Ciudad de México 04510, Mexico
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Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital, Banbury Road, Chipping Norton OX7 5SY, UK
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Catalonian Reptiles and Amphibians Rescue Centre (CRARC), 08783 Masquefa, Spain
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Animal Protection Biodiversity & Environment Section, Government of Catalonia, 43004 Tarragona, Spain
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School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia
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Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine, 562 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Gordon Burghardt
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1459; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051459
Received: 15 March 2021 / Revised: 26 April 2021 / Accepted: 10 May 2021 / Published: 19 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Snakes are sentient animals and should be subject to the accepted general welfare principles of other species. However, they are also the only vertebrates commonly housed in conditions that prevent them from adopting rectilinear behavior (ability to fully stretch out). We conducted a literature search and review regarding recommendations for enclosure sizes for snakes. We found that recommendations suggesting enclosure sizes shorter than the snakes were based entirely on decades-old ‘rule of thumb’ practices that were unsupported by scientific evidence. In contrast, recommendations suggesting enclosure sizes that allowed snakes to fully stretch (rectilinear posture) utilized scientific evidence and considerations of animal welfare. Rectilinear behavior is normal, distinct, and common across snake species, and is essential and fundamental to snake health and welfare. Scientific evidence-based recommendations for providing enclosures allowing snakes to fully stretch now constitute mainstream guidance information and good practice as a minimum spatial provision, both during short-term and long-term situations.
Snakes are sentient animals and should be subject to the accepted general welfare principles of other species. However, they are also the only vertebrates commonly housed in conditions that prevent them from adopting rectilinear behavior (ability to fully stretch out). To assess the evidence bases for historical and current guidance on snake spatial considerations, we conducted a literature search and review regarding recommendations consistent with or specifying ≥1 × and <1 × snake length enclosure size. We identified 65 publications referring to snake enclosure sizes, which were separated into three categories: peer-reviewed literature (article or chapter appearing in a peer-reviewed journal or book, n = 31), grey literature (government or other report or scientific letter, n = 18), and opaque literature (non-scientifically indexed reports, care sheets, articles, husbandry books, website or other information for which originating source is not based on scientific evidence or where scientific evidence was not provided, n = 16). We found that recommendations suggesting enclosure sizes shorter than the snakes were based entirely on decades-old ‘rule of thumb’ practices that were unsupported by scientific evidence. In contrast, recommendations suggesting enclosure sizes that allowed snakes to fully stretch utilized scientific evidence and considerations of animal welfare. Providing snakes with enclosures that enable them to fully stretch does not suggest that so doing allows adequate space for all necessary normal and important considerations. However, such enclosures are vital to allow for a limited number of essential welfare-associated behaviors, of which rectilinear posturing is one, making them absolute minimum facilities even for short-term housing. View Full-Text
Keywords: literature review; reptile husbandry; enclosure size; space; body posture literature review; reptile husbandry; enclosure size; space; body posture
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MDPI and ACS Style

Warwick, C.; Grant, R.; Steedman, C.; Howell, T.J.; Arena, P.C.; Lambiris, A.J.L.; Nash, A.-E.; Jessop, M.; Pilny, A.; Amarello, M.; Gorzula, S.; Spain, M.; Walton, A.; Nicholas, E.; Mancera, K.; Whitehead, M.; Martínez-Silvestre, A.; Cadenas, V.; Whittaker, A.; Wilson, A. Getting It Straight: Accommodating Rectilinear Behavior in Captive Snakes—A Review of Recommendations and Their Evidence Base. Animals 2021, 11, 1459. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051459

AMA Style

Warwick C, Grant R, Steedman C, Howell TJ, Arena PC, Lambiris AJL, Nash A-E, Jessop M, Pilny A, Amarello M, Gorzula S, Spain M, Walton A, Nicholas E, Mancera K, Whitehead M, Martínez-Silvestre A, Cadenas V, Whittaker A, Wilson A. Getting It Straight: Accommodating Rectilinear Behavior in Captive Snakes—A Review of Recommendations and Their Evidence Base. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1459. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051459

Chicago/Turabian Style

Warwick, Clifford, Rachel Grant, Catrina Steedman, Tiffani J. Howell, Phillip C. Arena, Angelo J.L. Lambiris, Ann-Elizabeth Nash, Mike Jessop, Anthony Pilny, Melissa Amarello, Steve Gorzula, Marisa Spain, Adrian Walton, Emma Nicholas, Karen Mancera, Martin Whitehead, Albert Martínez-Silvestre, Vanessa Cadenas, Alexandra Whittaker, and Alix Wilson. 2021. "Getting It Straight: Accommodating Rectilinear Behavior in Captive Snakes—A Review of Recommendations and Their Evidence Base" Animals 11, no. 5: 1459. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051459

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