The Animal Protection Agency (APA) has praised Basildon Borough Council for taking a proactive stance on illegal animal trading and has issued an urgent warning to venue managers throughout Essex. Last week, one venue took the responsible action of refusing a booking from reptile market organisers and now APA and the Council are on the alert in case the organisers seek to stage an event elsewhere or next year.

It is against the law (Pet Animals Act 1951) to trade in pet animals at market stalls, as the welfare of animals cannot be safeguarded in such temporary conditions. With the assistance of APA, exotic pet markets have been largely stamped out by local councils across the UK, but reptile market organisers often misleadingly describe their events as ‘shows’ or ‘breeders meetings’. APA has therefore cautioned venue managers against accepting bookings for any reptile-related events.

A reptile market took place in Basildon in July this year, at which APA investigators filmed widespread unlawful animal trading. The organisers of the event (the Essex Reptile and Amphibian Club and the British Reptiles and Amphibians Society) had described the event as a ‘breeders meeting’ at which no commercial animal selling would take place.

Prior to the event, Basildon Council liaised closely with the APA and the venue to investigate illegal trading. The venue also worked hard to ensure that the event complied with legislation and even barred some individuals from attending. Now the venue prefers to remain unnamed as it does not wish to be associated, in any way, with activities that took place and will not accommodate any further events of this type.

The APA has commended Basildon Council for examining evidence closely, giving clear and timely advice to the venue and supporting calls for local venue managers to be cautious about accepting bookings for exotic pet markets. APA has described action taken by Basildon Council as an example of ‘best-practice’ that other Council’s should follow if faced with similar challenges.

Says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency:

“By continuing to work alongside local councils and venues, we are determined to see an end to animals being sold in such shockingly poor conditions. Footage obtained by our investigators shows lizards, tortoises and snakes barely able to move in small plastic boxes with little to no temperature or humidity control. According to our research, most reptiles die within just one year in the home – sadly reptiles sold at markets are likely to die even sooner from the considerable additional stress they endure.”