Reptile collector jailed after breeding rodents as food for pet snakes
A reptile collector who kept rodents in squalid conditions to feed his pet snakes has been jailed for 150 days.
Steven Riddell has also been banned from owning or keeping all animals – except for his family dog.
Animal cruelty inspectors found 130 creatures, including mice, rats and rabbits, kept in filthy conditions by Riddell, who used his greenhouse to breed the rodents as “live” food for the 50 snakes which filled a room of his home.
But, when he appeared for sentencing at Paisley Sheriff Court yesterday, his actions saw him thrown behind bars.
The court heard that a seasoned SSPCA inspector was sickened by what they found at Riddell’s mid-terraced house in Erskine, following a tip-off in April last year.
It was stifling inside as a tarpaulin had been used to cover the virtual tomb in which the mice and rats were found, providing little ventilation or natural light to enter.
One of the inspectors could only remain inside for a brief moment as she had difficulty breathing in the oxygen-starved interior, which was stinking of stale ammonia from urine and droppings that filled the cages and containers.
One cage, which weighed two kilogrammes when clean and empty, was caked with a solid mass of droppings mixed with bedding that weighed almost 14 kilogrammes.
The callous 42-year-old freely admitted he had seen the rodents as a cheap source of food for his prized snakes which, by comparison, appeared to be well cared for.
It was, said one of the investigators, “a night and day” situation.
Inside the greenhouse, rats and mice, some with young which were lying on top of faeces, and one half-entrapped in compacted droppings, were kept in squalor in cages stacked from floor to ceiling.
Two mice were alive but paralysed, while others were dead or dying.
In some of the cages, faeces and urine was found to be six to eight inches in depth.
The only traces 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 and some were poking their noses out of gaps as they desperately tried to get a gasp of fresh air.
When he appeared in the dock, Riddell pleaded guilty to two contraventions of the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act of causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide adequate care, nutrition, water and clean bedding.
Rabbits, which were kept in similarly disgusting conditions in a nearby hutch, had been family pets, it was stated.
They too, were found to be neglected and their coats were stained yellow from urine.
It was stated that Riddell had agreed to hand over ownership of all of the animals, many of which were put down, although some were nursed back to good health and re-homed.
When quizzed by officers, unemployed Riddell accepted the conditions were disgusting and unacceptable but maintained he had “taken his eye off the ball” due to a series of family problems.
He said he knew that some of them were in poor health but hadn’t sought veterinary attention as they were “only food for my reptiles”.