Woman who decapitated snakes with scissors and ate their heads escapes prison sentence
A loner pet owner who drunkenly decapitated her two snakes with scissors before swallowing their heads has escaped jail.
Jennifer Lampe, 28, was discovered by police with the still-moving but headless body of her boa constrictor around her neck and both reptiles' severed heads in her trouser pockets.
She had "vomited up" the heads after swallowing them, telling animal inspectors she had "wanted to keep them".
On Thursday she was given a four-month jail term suspended for two years in what magistrates called an "unpleasant, not to say bizarre, incident" of animal cruelty.
She was also banned from keeping animals for five years.
Telford Magistrates' Court in Shropshire was also told how weeks before the decapitations she threw her pet hamster in a fish tank and watched it drown for making too much noise in the night.
RSPCA prosecutor Roger Price told court she then "put the dead hamster in a chest freezer" but its contents were later emptied.
On another occasion she admitted putting an unwanted cat in a carrier bag, taking it on a "long bus ride" and then releasing the animal.
She had twice tried to rid herself of the cat, having successfully disposed of a second cat which she "dumped behind a fence".
Mr Price said Lampe killed the two-metre boa constrictor and a smaller ball python on April 8 because she feared she was set to be made homeless and would be unable to look after them.
Lampe, of Market Drayton, had already pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the snakes "by doing an act, namely cutting their heads off" contrary to the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
Mr Price told the court she committed the offence at her sister's house in Church Stretton, Shropshire, on April 8 after drinking seven cans of lager and shots of amaretto and whisky.
He said the defendant had been living with her sister since May last year but killed the snakes because she feared she was no longer welcome, and did not think her sibling would take proper care of the pets.
Mr Price added that Lampe's dislike of her sister's boyfriend had caused friction which "came to a head" on the day of the incident.
Lampe became agitated, "yelling and swearing", and took a pair of scissors and a knife up to her bedroom where the snakes were.
Mr Price said: "When her sister saw the defendant in her bedroom she had a boa constrictor under her top and was covered in blood.
"About three-quarters of the snake could be seen. The defendant was hysterical."
Her sister, who was in court to support Lampe, called police.
Mr Price said when officers turned up they found a visibly upset Lampe with a "long headless snake draped around her neck".
The second snake's body was found upstairs in her bedroom.
Mr Price added: "She believed she would be homeless and did not want to leave the snakes with her sister."
A vet confirmed the snakes had probably been decapitated with scissors but concluded "the death of the snakes was not swift", with signs of several attempts to cut through the animals' necks.
Mr Price said the vet had also found the snakes' "suffering was prolonged and painful" and remarked that reptiles' heads "can remain operable up to an hour after decapitation", meaning they could have been aware as Lampe swallowed them.
In interview, she told the RSPCA investigator "the small head (of the ball python) went down easily" but she had trouble with the larger boa constrictor.
Mr Price said: "She managed to swallow them both but vomited them up."
Sarah Cooper, representing Lampe, said her client was a vulnerable "loner" who had "some mental health problems", a drink problem and was currently taking anti-depressants.
She said: "It is a bizarre set of circumstances, needless to say, the animals have suffered, they shouldn't have, she knows that."
Chairman of the bench Sue Tyrrell, sentencing, said: "I'm sure you are aware, it has to be said, this is a rather unpleasant, not to say bizarre, incident."
She added that despite the "seriousness" of the offence, magistrates would suspend the sentence.
"You will address the many issues you have which led to this offence and hopefully prevent you offending again."