Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Friday, 24 September 2004 13:39 UK

Snake hunt after dog loses an eye

Collie dog Mona
Mona lost an eye after what her owner believes was a snake bite

A woman from Kent fears a 10ft-long python may have attacked her collie dog in a sports field used by children.

Janice McNaughton claims the snake - believed to be a Burmese python - has been living in a field near the Otham Sports Club for the past two years.

Her dog had to have an eye surgically removed this week after what she thinks may have been a fight with the reptile.

Experts have said they have no proof that the injury was caused by a snake, but are keeping a look out for it.

Special conditions

Ms McNaughton, who owns the sports club and lives in nearby Larkfield, said she first saw the snake in the club car park two years ago, and mistook it for a piece of rolled up carpet until she saw it move.

"It just slithered off into the wood," she said. Ms McNaughton has nicknamed the snake Monty.

She had believed he posed no danger to children playing on the 17-acre field, until her 16-year-old dog Mona was attacked on Sunday.

She said her dog had vanished under the sports pavilion and emerged with what appeared to be a bite-mark to her eye.

"She had to have her eye removed by the vet," she said.

Burmese python
The 10-ft long snake is believed to be a Burmese python
A reptile expert has now been placed on standby by Maidstone Borough Council, which said it was taking Ms McNaughton's claim "very seriously".

Exotic pet experts and environmental health officers have been scouring the area, but have so far found no sign of the snake.

However, the RSPCA said it would have been extremely unusual for such a snake to have survived outdoors for so long, as it needs special conditions.

Spokeswoman Klare Kennett told BBC News Online that an RSPCA inspector had gone out to the site a few days ago, amid concern for the snake's welfare.

She said although it had been assumed that the dog's injury was caused by a snake, the vet called to treat Mona could not confirm it.

Maidstone Borough Council said the snake should not be approached by members of the public.

Mature Burmese pythons can grow to more than 20ft in length and live for more than 25 years.

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