Woman finds live three-foot snake under bed in Co Laois

Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 01:00

A Co Laois woman was startled to discover what she had thought was a child’s toy under a bed was actually a three-foot snake.

Margaret O’Brien (65), Fr O’Connor Crescent, Mountrath, noticed what appeared to be a tail sticking out from under a bed in a spare room on Monday evening.

Thinking the item was a grandchild’s toy, she was horrified when the tail began to move. “I’m coming to a little bit now,” Ms O’Brien said yesterday. “I thought it might have been a toy, I was going to pick it up.”

Ms O’Brien shut the bedroom door and called her nephew and his friends. They bagged the snake and contacted the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Garda.

Their investigations led them to a house a number of doors away where a further three snakes and six terrapins were found.

“It’s just awful what has happened,” said Ms O’Brien. “I was as near to touching it because I thought it was the tail of a grandchild’s toy. I don’t know how it got in. I do leave the windows open for the air.”

ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling said there remained a “question mark” over how the snake escaped. “Certainly for it to go across country and appear in another house is unusual,” he said.

While identification was still under way yesterday, Mr Dowling said the four snakes located at O’Connor Crescent appeared to be small constrictors, possible rat snakes or king snakes.

“These ones are pretty harmless compared to what is being sold out there without regulation,” he said. In Ireland, “you need a licence to buy a dog but you can buy a tiger or crocodile without anything”.

He recalled attending a house in Co Leitrim about six years ago and meeting a woman who had two black bears in her back shed. The owner was attached to a circus and “apparently she let them wander around the house”.

On another occasion, he said the ISPCA was called out to deal with some lions and a bear in Co Limerick. He is reiterating his call for legislation on the sale and possession of exotic animals.

The ISPCA has spoken with the owner of the reptiles in Co Laois. The man declined to comment when contacted yesterday.