Pensioner's home a 'snake hostel'
A pensioner who kept almost 200 snakes in her semi-detached house has been banned from keeping reptiles for a year following a prosecution which has cost the RSPCA more than £150,000.
Pauline Wallace, 64, admitted keeping the animals in poor conditions at her home in York, including 114 in her bedroom.
Today, at York Magistrates' Court, Wallace was given a 12-month community order with supervision as well as the reptile-keeping ban.
She had pleaded guilty to nine counts of animal cruelty at a previous hearing.
Phil Browne, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told the bench the charity has incurred costs of £156,000 since they discovered Wallace's huge colony of at least 186 snakes.
Mr Browne said that it was costing the society between £7,000 and £16,000 a month to house 60 of the reptiles that were seized and did not have to be put down.
But chairman of the bench Erica Taylor ordered Wallace to pay just £250 costs and a further £60 surcharge.
Mr Browne told the magistrates: "Around 20 dead snakes had been frozen.
"Mrs Wallace indicated these were her favourites and couldn't bear to part with them."
The prosecutor said the live snakes were in various states and some were infested with mites and living in their own waste.
He said Wallace's border collie Alfie was also in a bad state.
Mr Browne said one vet said of one vivarium: "There was a foul smell when I lifted the lid which was quite overwhelming."
David Ward, defending, said his client started off with one snake and came to love the reptiles when she noticed how it would only go to sleep after she had gone to bed.
Mr Ward said she began to take in more and more until she had developed a "snake hostel".
He said: "This is an elderly lady who, for a time, had too many snakes."
He said the snakes were mostly very small and only posed a danger to a "passing worm or frog".
Mr Ward said his client only had 14 snakes now and these were well looked after.
Magistrates gave Wallace, of Osbaldwick Lane, York, 21 days to re-home these remaining reptiles.
Turning to the costs incurred by the RSPCA, Mr Ward said: "It's absolutely outrageous this firm can charge £7,000 to £16,000 a month to look after a few snakes that she (Wallace) was looking after on a pension."