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As non-essential shops in England were finally given the go-ahead to reopen after lockdown yesterday (15 June), the Newton Abbot branch of the sportswear chain had to close its doors after the animal was found inside, which was thought to be a non-venomous Honduran milk snake.
Snake expert Sean Nichol, from For Goodness Snakes, was alerted to the unfolding drama - and turned up at around 11am hoping to help the creature.
But staff then refused to hand the creature over to Mr Nichol, who runs educational reptile shows. He claims the RSPCA even approved him taking the animal.
Eventually, the snake was handed over to a local vet, around six hours after it was discovered.
LADbible has contacted Sports Direct for comment.
Speaking to Devon Live, Mr Nichol said: "I am furious with Sports Direct. That snake was found at 11am and did not get help until 5pm. It was ridiculous.
"I would have had that back at mine and looking after it in no time. At the end of the day, they really prolonged the suffering of that animal.
"I showed them all my licences and insurance and hung around all day, but they wouldn't give me the snake - I think they thought I was trying to get a free snake. Even the RSPCA told them to give me the snake, but they wouldn't.
"Don't forget, that thing could have been in there since March as they only reopened today."
Shoppers in the queue were also aware of the incident.
Chris Butler, a 27-year-old coach driver from Weymouth was in the queue when he heard about the snake inside and was angry that the snake wasn't given the care it needed.
He said: "We had been queuing outside for at least two hours. It was closed when we turned up. and a lady said it was because there was a snake inside.
"Half an hour later, a snake expert turned up. He had all proper equipment and uniform, but they wouldn't let him in as they said they needed an official vet.
"The vet turned up about 30 minutes later. Even the vet agreed that the snake guy was better placed to catch the snake but they still said no.
"The vet went in with literally a piece of wood and managed to catch it 20 minutes later, but they just left it in a box and did not give it any help."
Images show police on the scene. Devon and Cornwall Police later confirmed they were called as tempers became frayed.
A spokesperson said: "Police were called at 12.15pm today (15 June) following a report of a snake being found within the Sports Direct store in Newton Abbot.
"We didn't attend to deal with the snake but there were reports of a verbal altercation outside the store and a group of people reportedly acting in an intimidating manner.
"On arrival the snake was already captured and safely in a box. All was in order outside the store and no offences were committed."
The RSPCA confirmed the snake was now wait a vet.
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