‘Wrigglies were invaluable to us’

One of the recovered Black-Necked Spitting Cobras
One of the recovered Black-Necked Spitting Cobras

Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable exotic pet shop staff have been praised for their help with an animal welfare investigation which saw a reckless reptile keeper jailed.

Julian Clare, manager and dangerous wild animal handler at Wrigglies, Hockliffe Street, and Marc Darton, co-owner of Wrigglies, based at their Dunstable High Street South store, provided “invaluable” help to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) during their investigation, making several 10 hour journeys to help the charity.

Julian Clare

Julian Clare

The investigation resulted in Keith Ross, 26, of Highfield Crescent, Motherwell,being handed an 18-month jail sentence and a 10-year disqualification on keeping animals, after causing unnecessary suffering.

The reptiles in his care included a large number of snakes, lizards, scorpions and turtles that were being kept in “appalling conditions”.

Ross was also found to be keeping 13 venomous snakes and two scorpions without the appropriate licences, after his licence was rejected by the local council.

Julian explained: “We were recommended for our expertise in dealing with venomous animals and the reptiles recovered were signed over into our care.

“I was very, very happy to help the SSPCA, who are great people and looked after us very well. Their officers have recently been to us for training.”

Marc said: “This was a major undertaking and I am very proud of Wrigglies .

“Our name is out there if others need help.

“The venomous snakes are now in our DWA room, Leighton Buzzard, and a number of the other reptiles have already found homes.

“Some animals were emaciated but are doing really well, putting weight on and we also found animals covered in their own faeces, but they are now nice and healthy. It’s been a long recovery.”

An undercover investigator for the SSPCA, said: “Wrigglies provided handling and were a font of knowledge. They had an amazing willingness to help no matter what!”

Ross plead guilty to causing animals in his care unnecessary suffering and being culpable and reckless by failing to disclose dangerous animals to the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland prior to carrying out search warrants. He was sentenced on June 27.