Impact of Housing and Husbandry on Pet Snake Welfare

  • Key finding:

    Snakes are popular pets with approximately 200,000 of many species currently kept in the UK. Suitable housing and husbandry are essential for their health and welfare. However, housing and care may not always satisfy the animal's welfare needs with the majority of vivaria failing to meet current welfare recommendations published by the RSPCA. Snakes are often kept in small vivaria with unsuitable environmental conditions and inadequate enrichment. Amongst other limitations, this restricts their ability to stretch out fully or move around, especially using rectilinear locomotion - which is a common feature of snake behaviour. The study documents the most common housing and husbandry methods in the three most common families of snakes (Pythonids, Boids and Colubrids) and explores potential welfare concerns for snakes kept within private homes. The results of this study showed that a number of snakes were reported in enclosures less than two-thirds of their length. These conditions do not follow current recommendations and restrict a snake's behaviour including movement. They also limit space significantly diminishing opportunities for cage enrichment. This is a concern as owners reported 90.7% of snakes adopted rectilinear (straight-line or near straight-line) positions or movements, and those snakes kept in enclosures >1 snake length tended to have more enrichment types and were reported with fewer clinical signs of ill health. Moreover, this study highlighted that a significant number of owners failed to measure the temperature and humidity, and a proportion of those respondents kept their snakes in sub-optimal ranges or failed to check readings daily. These factors also are a cause of concern for snakes kept in private homes. This is the first study of this size that provides valuable baseline data to compare against future surveys and assess the impact of future interventions in snake managemnet. Moreover, it can be used to target husbandry guidance for future recommendations and care manuals.

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Cargill BM, Benato L and Rooney NJ (2022) A survey exploring the impact of housing and husbandry on pet snake welfare. Animal Welfare 31 (2), pp. 193-208.