The reptile and amphibian market was warned to leave, but it has since retreated and gone into hiding in Ashford, Kent.

Wednesday 10 July, 2024

Animal welfare groups were pleased to hear that a planned reptile and amphibian market at Leigh Academy Rainham school in Gillingham was cancelled. The event, which was set to take place on Saturday 13th July 2024, was organized by the ARC (Amphibian and Reptile Club), a group run by animal dealers. However, the school lettings provider, Vivify Venues, received evidence of potential criminal activity and quickly withdrew their permission for the use of the school. The local council, Medway Council, also took swift action in investigating the issue.

Despite the cancellation, organizers announced yesterday that the market would now take place at an undisclosed venue in Ashford, Kent. The trade in pet animals over market stalls is illegal due to the inability to properly safeguard animal welfare in temporary and makeshift environments. At reptile and amphibian markets, animals are often displayed and sold in small, plastic, takeaway tubs and are denied basic welfare requirements such as space to move, hiding places, and access to food and water. These markets also lack proper control over temperature, lighting, and humidity, which are essential for the well-being of these animals.

Animal welfare groups are now appealing for any information that may lead to the location of the underground market. “Our undercover investigators have caught illegal animal dealers red-handed at every single reptile market they have filmed over the years,” says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency. “Sensitive and vulnerable wild animals suffer greatly in the hands of these traders.”

Dr Charlotte Regan, Wildlife Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection, also speaks out against these types of markets, stating, “Reptiles and amphibians are sentient animals with complex welfare needs, not commodities to be exploited by the pet trade. These markets are outdated events that have no place in our society.”

Laura Walton, Campaigns Manager for Freedom for Animals, adds, “The suffering caused to animals as a result of being transported in tiny plastic tubs, and put on display for hours on end at these events, often without any food or water, is an utter disgrace; and why the trading of animals at markets was rightly banned. So we welcome the news that Vivify Venues have cancelled this exploitative event, and applaud their proactive response to prevent animal suffering. These profit-driven markets must cease to exist, and the rights and wellbeing of all animals better protected.”

The animal welfare groups are now working together to lobby the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for improved guidance to aid in effective enforcement by local authorities. A recently published scientific study on reptile markets has highlighted the importance of robustly enforcing the ban on these events due to their serious animal welfare problems and the threats they pose to public health.

Anyone with information on the location of the event in Ashford is urged to contact the Animal Protection Agency at For further information, please contact Elaine Toland at 01273 674253 or out of hours at 07986 535024. Images and footage of reptile and amphibian markets are available upon request.

Derick is an experienced reporter having held multiple senior roles for large publishers across Europe. Specialist subjects include small business and financial emerging markets.

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