A SNAKE expert said a man who took a huge python “for a walk” in the city centre was not breaking any laws.

However, the herpetologist said the reptile would have been uncomfortable and could have upset people with ophidiophobia - a fear of snakes.

Police stopped the man in Ship Street, Brighton, at about 2.30pm yesterday after concerns were raised about the welfare of the reptile, which was estimated to be about 12ft long.

The Argus:

He was encouraged to leave and escorted to his car by officers after pleading the point that they would have stopped to speak to him if he were walking a dog, a passerby reported.

The Argus contacted snake expert Steven Allain, a council member of the British Herpetological Society, following the incident.

He said there were no legal factors preventing the man from taking the snake, believed to be a reticulated or Burmese python, into the city.

READ MORE>>>Man and huge snake stopped by police in Ship Street, Brighton

However, the behaviour was inadvisable as the tropical snake would not have been comfortable in the autumnal Brighton conditions - about 15C.

Steven said: “There are no legal limitations of taking snakes into public spaces unless they are listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (1976).

“The constrictor that we see in the video is not listed and so you’re legally able to walk around with the snake in public.

“Whether this is a good idea or not is another question. In this case it certainly isn’t, especially given the fact that a number of people suffer from ophidiophobia.

“So, you’re not only stressing the snake but also local residents too.

“As I’m not a resident of Brighton, I can’t speak of any local bylaws that may also restrict pet snakes being ‘walked’ in public but there is always this consideration too.

“It’s understandable that the police had concerns for the snake’s welfare, particularly in regards to the Animal Welfare Act (2006).

“A cold September afternoon is not the time to take a tropical snake into a town centre.

“They should be kept in an appropriate environment with the correct husbandry such as in a purpose-built vivarium.

“It’s perfectly fine to keep a watchful eye on pet snakes in your own garden (so they get some natural UV light) or to take them to the vets but I’d question this behaviour.

“The owner is the person most at risk, all it takes is for the python to get a little spooked or hold on a little too tight when being carried around the neck and you could quickly lose consciousness or worse.

“A snake of that size isn’t going to eat you but it could easily inflict harm without even realising it.”

The Argus:

Sussex Police received reports that the snake had been “dropped to the ground and been used for filming, with people being invited to hold it”.

The RSPCA has also commented on the incident.

A spokeswoman said: “Exotic pets like reptiles are wild animals kept in captivity and so their needs are essentially no different to animals of the same species living in the wild and are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a home, let alone an urban street.

“Anyone who would like further information on how to care for exotic animals should visit www.rspca.org.uk/exotics.”

While legal restrictions did not apply to the incident in Ship Street yesterday, an offence could have been committed if the snake were to have escaped.

It is illegal to release, or allow to escape, any animal that is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain. under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.