A 6ft (1.8m) boa constrictor has been found abandoned – the latest in a spate of exotic pets to be dumped on an RSPCA animal centre.
Staff got a shock when they opened a polystyrene box left outside their front gate and found the snake inside.
It was the third case in a week for South Godstone Animal Centre in Surrey, which has also taken in a corn snake and three geckos.
Supervisor Clare Hyre said: “We had no idea at all what was inside. Then, as we started to open the box up, this long tail shot out.
“I got quite a fright. In the 12 years I have worked here I have never seen anything like it.
“It was lucky that we found this snake when we did – the box could easily have been missed and she was lucky to be alive. There were no air holes in the box or the temperature controls needed to keep a snake like this healthy.”
The boa is a female which can grown up to 10ft (3m) in length and live for up to 20-30 years.
She was taken to Patcham Reptile Centre in Brighton and has already been found a new home with a specialist keeper.
Keith Wells, manager at Patcham, said: “This boa was in good condition and had clearly been well looked after, but it seems the owner just was not willing or able to care for her anymore.”
He added: “People need to think carefully before taking on a pet like this.
“You can come across a boa in a pet shop and it’s a tiny little snake, just 12in (30cm) long.
“But they get bigger and bigger until the owner suddenly finds they have a massive animal on their hands which they do not have space for.
“Lots of people tell me they suddenly get a bit scared of the snake when they grow as well.”