Rescuers have come under fire from a leading animal rights group after freezing a harmless green snake to death in the north-east.
The Scottish SPCA has been criticised by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) after mistaking a reptile found on board a cargo ship in Aberdeen for a lethal green mamba.
The animal was discovered on Wednesday, November 9, after the ship returned from West Africa.
Animal officers transferred it to the Scottish SPCA’s rehoming centre in Drumoak.
The snake was put down – by being placed in a freezer – due to “severe health and safety concerns”.
The closest anti-venom for a green mamba bite was located in Bedford.
Workers had tried to find it a home with a specialist reptile keeper.
Later it emerged the reptile was a benign green tree snake with neither venom nor fangs.
Last night Peta director Elisa Allan said: “If a snake must be euthanised – which means given a ‘good death’ – the animal shouldn’t be frozen to death.
“Major veterinary bodies, including the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, recognise that this is unacceptable, since the formation of ice crystals on a snake’s skin can cause acute pain.”
She added the Scottish SPCA should have been more “professional” and “should consult with a reptile expert or two to prevent future incidents like this from occurring”.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said it had been an “innocent mistake”, adding the charity “genuinely believed” it was a green mamba.
Mr Flynn said: “The safety of our staff and the public is paramount and as such the snake was placed in a freezer where it passed away.”
He added this had been considered “the only safe option as any other method would have posed a significant risk to our staff”.