The RSPCA is warning that thousands of exotic pets are at risk as the number of calls it receives per year has increased.
Every year the RSPCA takes thousands of calls from members of the public about exotics pets and the number involving reptiles in particular has been steadily rising. In 2015 the RSPCA investigated 2,772 calls received about reptiles – a 50% increase from seven years ago.
The top five reptiles that the RSPCA collects are bearded dragons, cornsnakes, royal pythons, terrapins and leopard geckos.
Now in a bid to try to combat the neglect of these special animals the charity has released a number of care videos backed by wildlife expert and TV presenter Chris Packham to help members of the public look after their exotic pets better.
Chris said: “The problem is that these animals have exactly the same requirements as they have in the wild when they are in captivity so meeting all their needs is actually quite a challenge. Sadly the RSPCA is experiencing an increase in the number of calls to their cruelty line about exotics and even worse – that many are just being abandoned.”
In order to address the large number of calls involving exotic animals – particularly reptiles – the RSPCA has trained up ten members of its inspectorate to specialise in the keeping and welfare of exotic pets.
RSPCA Exotics officer Insp Anthony Pulfer said: “The RSPCA is experiencing widespread neglect of exotic animals and we are urgently trying to change this.
“For many people an exotic animal represents too much of a commitment which is manifested in the growing number of exotic animals being abandoned, collected by the RSPCA and handed to shelters around the country. Many people do not realise what they are taking on when they buy these animals which can have disastrous effects.
“In so many of the cases I see there are reptiles, such as bearded dragons and corn snakes, that have either been abandoned or neglected.
Experts believe part of the issue is stems from the sale of exotics pets on the internet as in many cases new owners are not given sound advice on how to care for their pets properly to make sure they are kept happy and healthy.
The RSPCA has been working with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group to try to improve the situation surrounding exotic pets and is campaigning for changes to legislation to help improve the welfare of thousands of animals in England.
RSPCA Scientific Officer Alexandra Jones said: “We are extremely concerned about the sale of any animals as pets online as potential owners should always have thoroughly researched the needs of any animal before buying or rehoming one.
“We also feel it is very important for
new owners to see the animal in their home environment and have time to talk through the animal’s history properly. This is particularly vital in the case of exotic animals which may have more specialist needs than domesticated animals.
“We are pleased that Westminster is considering an overhaul of outdated pet shop legislation, which is over 60 years old, to ensure it is in line with how animals are now bought and sold, including through the internet and we hope it will be strong enough to ensure the welfare of thousands of exotics that change hands every year.
“We also welcome the UK Government’s proposals to improve the information given out with reptiles and improve the training and care of those selling them too.”
For more information please visit www.rspca.org.uk/exotics