The stench coming from a property in Carstairs Junction led surrounding residents to report to the police fears that there was a decomposing human corpse inside.
However, when officers forced their way in, what they found instead was a charnel house of dead and dying animals, including an apparently abandoned collection of snakes.A vet called to the scene later said that it was the “worst case of animal neglect possible”.
At Lanark Sheriff Court last Thursday, the owner of the snakes, John Cuthbert, 39, of Windsor Court, Carluke, appeared for sentence after admitting two charges of animal neglect.
He pleaded guilty to having, between July 12 and September 12 last year at the address in Coronation Street, Carstairs Junction, caused a python unnecessary suffering by failing to provide adequate care and treatment for a number of conditions including infections and haemorrhages.
He further admitted that, between the same dates at the same location, he had failed to provide a suitable environment for two pythons and six boa constrictors by failing to provide them with heating, clean water, adequate food or hygiene and exposing them to faeces, urine, maggots, a dead snake and dead chicks and rats.
The court heard that, on September 7 last year, police were responding to reports of the foul smells coming from the property, and by coincidence, a Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals inspector arrived at the scene at the same time, responding to separate reports that there were abandoned snakes inside.
A boa constrictor was seen on a window sill, apparently searching for food.
A joiner helped the police and inspector enter the house where they found the smell almost unbearable.
Dead chicks and rats, used to feed the snakes, lay rotting, along with the remains of a dead snake.
The SSPCA inspector found the surviving snakes in a “terrible condition” and a vet later said that the level of neglect they had suffered could not have been worse.
Cuthbert’s solicitor, Jim Robertson, said that, ironically, it had been acts of kindness that had led to the situation.
The snakes, he said, had been rescued from previous owners who no longer wanted them, but personal and medical problems hampered Cuthbert’s ability to care for them.
Cuthbert was fined £400 and banned from owning snakes for 10 years.
Commenting on the investigation and court case, Scottish SPCA Inspector Heather Lawson said, “The snakes were being kept in shocking conditions.
“There were decomposing chick and rat carcases at the bottom of the snakes vivariums which was causing a soup-like matter to form as the carcasses were mixing with shed skins and faeces.
“Not only were the snakes being kept in an inadequate environment, with no heating and a lack of clean drinking water and food, a number of them were suffering with a severe oral infection, known as mouth rot, and had maggots in their mouth and body.
“We welcome the fact that Cuthbert has been dealt with by the court and the sentence handed down. We hope he will give serious consideration about his suitability to care for other animals in the future.”