Police shut down snake-handling tourist attraction near Charles Bridge

The crackdown targeted individuals illegally and forcefully charging tourists for animal photo opportunities.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 04.07.2023 16:15:00 (updated on 05.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague police have reported that, at the end of June, they confiscated two wild snakes from the city center that were being used as a "tourist attraction" to make money. The snakes’ owners, who were foreigners, used the animals as a money-making tool, targeting tourists. Visitors to Prague would ask to get a picture taken with the royal pythons, only for the owners to ask for (or demand) payment after.

The snakes and their owners were found on Karlova Street and Celetná Street in Prague’s Old Town. "The police officers assessed that they were forcing the animal to perform feats that exceeded its capabilities," said Irena Seifertová, a spokeswoman for the Prague police officers.

One of the snake handlers was unable to produce the necessary documents to show he was legally allowed to own the reptile. Another man who was spotted by police close by, also holding a snake, was similarly without any paperwork. The police also found that the animals were without water. The snakes are now safe at Prague's Wild and Exotic Animal Rescue Station.

Illegal and cruel

According to the State Veterinary Administration, a permit is required from the regional veterinary administration to breed and care for an animal requiring special care. Prague police confirmed that the act of using wild animals for money was illegal.

Seifertová says that the act constitutes animal cruelty. One expert in iDnes said that snakes should not be handled for an extensive period of time more than two times per week. He also pointed out the unlikelihood of the reptiles receiving adequate food and drink.

The snake owners, who usually operate in organized groups, often have several "watchmen" looking out for policemen. They are then therefore able to flee before the police arrive at the scene. In the past, the owners have defended themselves by saying that payment from foreigners is totally voluntary and they rightfully own the animals.

Those who have walked in the center of Prague – close to the capital’s most well-known attractions such as Charles Bridge – may well have seen various animals hoisted up by owners. In addition to snakes, owls, cats, and mice have been spotted by members of the public, with the creatures’ owners looking to make some cash.

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