POLICE and RSPCA officers swooped on an animal rescue centre today because of concerns for the creatures’ welfare.

Some of the exotic animals at MagnaRep were removed while police officers kept staff from entering the Oxford Street premises in Bolton town centre.

An angry crowd remonstrated with the officers throughout the day, while a number of animals were taken into the RSPCA’s care, including snakes, lizards and spiders.

The shutters of the centre were later closed and volunteers were not allowed inside. It is not clear whether the centre will be reopened or closed for good.

Furious volunteers claimed they had been given little or no information about what was going on and what was happening to the animals.

Susan Maddock, charity trustee, said: “It’s just not right. I’m absolutely devastated.  “This is our life. We are trying to look after animals that nobody else will look after.

“I’m worried that they could be taken away and euthanised.”

One of the trustees was reportedly not allowed back into the premises to get his autism medication until later in the day.

Officers rotated shifts to maintain a constant police presence outside the shop but they left when the shutters closed.

Volunteer Chris Thomson said: “I got to the centre at around 10.40am and there were police in the premises.

“I went inside and I was told to lock the door and they told me they had a warrant to search the premises and to look at the animals.

“I think it’s a vendetta the RSPCA has against us. They have been after us for the past three to five years.

“This place has helped me quite a lot. I suffer from depression and it’s given me a new lease of life.

“Without this place, I do not know what I would do. We do it all for the animals.”

Police took details from people who owned pets in the shop, including the animals’ names, ages and breeds.

A person with links to the business, who asked not to be named, said: “The police have seized all the animals without cause.

“There have been complaints that a lot of the animals are malnourished, but it’s a rescue centre that takes in animals that have been malnourished and mistreated and gets them back up to the right weight and finds them a new home.

“They have had complaints that the place is filthy, but it’s only filthy when an animal has relieved itself and it’s cleaned up straight away and they clean the animal up straight away.

“All the animals are looked after and treated for whatever they need. They find a new home and a second chance for pre-loved animals.

“It’s all just kicking off. They’re not letting anyone take their animals, they’re all being seized.

“It’s completely voluntary and non-profit, which shows they’re doing it for the right reasons.”

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “A warrant has been executed on a premises in Bolton because of concerns for the welfare of animals there.

“RSPCA officers are in attendance along with police, the council and a specialist vet.

“A large number of exotic animals including snakes, lizards and spiders have been taken into possession by police on veterinary advice and placed in RSPCA care.

“As our investigation is on-going, no further information is available at this time.”