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Reptile Fair In Normandy Cancelled After Allegations Of Illegal Trading

Published on: 14 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

A fair organised by the Surrey Reptile and Amphibian Society (SRAS), due to run at Normandy Village Hall on Saturday, October 15, was hastily cancelled after allegations of illegal trading of animals at a previous SRAS event in the hall.

The Animal Protection Agency claims its film shows traders handling cash and selling animals at the SRAS event in Normandy Village hall in July 2022.

SRAS said in a statement it had been threatened by Guildford Borough Council with “prosecution under the Pet Animals Act 1951” if it went ahead with the meeting of “reptile enthusiasts”.

Animal activists, the Animal Protection Agency (APA), said it sent two “professional investigators” to a previous reptile and amphibian fair organised by the SRAS in Normandy Village Hall on July 31 this year. APA said it had passed evidence collected by the investigators, including filming of the July 31 event, to Guildford Borough Council.

An APA spokesperson said the “law prohibits the trade of pet animals from market stalls as it is impossible to safeguard their welfare in such temporary and makeshift conditions”. It said Guildford Borough Council had “reacted quickly by warning the venue of the likelihood of further illicit activity at Saturday’s event”.

The APA said the event had been “advertised as a hobbyist breeders meeting”, but it claimed “evidence from the July event showed that the event was in fact a commercially-driven market”. The APA said: “Reptile markets have been largely eradicated from the UK thanks to improved local authority enforcement.”

The APA film claims there were professional display cabinets with prices visible at the SRAS event in Normandy Village Hall on July 31. It says sellers claim they are private individuals selling a few pets surplus to their hobby.

APA director Elaine Toland said: The treatment of reptiles at these markets has been described by scientists as ‘tantamount to animal abuse’. If dogs and cats were subjected to the same appalling conditions, and treated as inanimate objects, there would be public uproar. We are grateful that the council and the venue have acted to prevent further such abuse.”

A statement on the SRAS website states: “On Wednesday 5th October, SRAS received a letter from GBC, threatening prosecution under the Pet Animals Act 1951 if SRAS went ahead with holding the meeting.

“We then spoke to Normandy Village Hall and they informed us they received a similar letter, and because the GBC believe there will be possible offences conducted on site in regards to acting as a business selling animals as pets at a market, Normandy Village Hall do not feel they would be able to allow us to hold the event at their venue, and therefore advised us to cancel.”

APA says this still from its film shows two snakes on sale price £600 and £800 at the SRAS meeting in Normandy Village Hall in July 2022.

The SRAS statement said: “GBC noted in their letter the passion and genuine concern for welfare of the animals that the exhibitors expressed when their Animal Welfare inspectors visited our July meeting, and they have not brought forward any concerns for the welfare of the animals at that meeting.

“We have taken advice from the Federation of British Herpetologists, who have dealt with these matters before, and we were told not to concede to GBC as our meeting is fully legal and exhibitors are protected under law.”

Normandy Village Hall (NVH) chair, Roshan Bailey said: “As discussed, I confirm that SRAS have cancelled the planned event on 15 October following discussion with me about concerns raised by Guildford Borough Council.

“As background, SRAS had implemented a range of procedures aimed at the prevention of any illegal activity at previous events held at Normandy Village Hall. GBC officials were invited to and did attend the event in July, but were not able to provide any feedback until this month when they raised concerns about the potential for illegal activity.

“As there was insufficient time to address their concerns, NVH and SRAS agreed that the meeting would be cancelled. SRAS and GBC intend to have further discussions about arrangements for any future events.

“NVH will be pleased to welcome SRAS for future events following the satisfactory conclusion of such discussions and implementation of suitable arrangements to prevent any illegal activity.”

Guildford Borough Council’s lead councillor for environment, James Steel (Westborough, Lib Dem), said: “We have monitored events at Normandy Village Hall to ensure compliance with the law following concerns raised with us. Some of these related to the Pet Animals Act and The Animal Welfare Regulations. The event organisers and venue managers gave us their full co-operation.

“The decision to cancel the event on 15 October 2022 came from the event organisers, not us. Our investigations are ongoing, so we cannot share further information now.”

The online statement from SRAS apologised and offered full refunds to exhibitors, but it were determined to continue, saying: “This is not the end for meetings organised by SRAS and we will come back with future events, we just need to work with all parties involved to determine the best way to bring reptile enthusiasts together.”

The Guildford Drago NEWS has approached SRAS for a comment.

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