STAFF at a McDonald's restaurant were shocked after discovering an unexpected customer.

The RSPCA is investigating after receiving a call on Saturday, July 6, after a member of staff found a corn snake shut in a plastic takeaway container and left on the side in Middlesbrough.

The snake, thought to be three weeks old, was taken home by a McDonald's member of staff until an RSPCA officer could collect it.

RSPCA animal collection officer Shane Lynn was sent to retrieve the snake.

He said: “They found the snake at 11pm so a kind member of staff took him home until I was able to get to them.

“It looks as though he’s been abandoned by someone who can no longer provide him with the care he needs.

"Unfortunately this is something we often see happening with exotic pets such as reptiles - and reports of animals being abandoned are at their highest this time of year.”

The charity has been dealing with the problem of exotic animals being abandoned, found stray or neglected. In 2018, RSPCA officers rescued over 4,000 exotic animals, including more than 500 snakes.

Dr Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA senior scientific officer in exotics and wildlife trade, said: “Reptiles and other exotic pets are completely reliant on their owners to meet their welfare needs including requiring the correct levels of heat, light and humidity, plus an appropriate diet.

“In some cases, we believe owners take on exotic pets simply because they believe they will be easier to care for than other pets, but it is essential that people research what is required in the care of their pet, including food, equipment, environment and vet care, before taking one on.

“We believe that people may buy them with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep and the animals are sometimes neglected when the novelty wears off and the commitment hits home.

"This is why we would encourage anyone thinking of getting an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they’re the right pet for them.”

The young snake has been taken in by a specialist where he will be cared for. If an owner can’t be traced then he will be rehomed.

Anyone who saw the snake being abandoned or knows who is responsible should contact the RSPCA’s appeal line on 0300 123 8018