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24 September 2014
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  Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday September 1, 2003


Tarantulas, iguanas, salamander and snakes are popular pets

A million people own exotic pets but not everyone knows how to look after them. That is why pet rescue centres are busier than ever.

Most of us used to be happy with a cat or a dog as a pet. Not anymore. More and more of us want something a bit different.

Well over a million people in England now own an exotic reptile.

The problem is that too many owners cannot look after them.

There are a large number of species that can be termed exotic pets, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates.

The availability of many unusual species has led to more people considering keeping these animals in their homes.


Many species are illegal in the UK, often due to the danger they may pose to other people or because of the animal's conservation status in the wild.

Find out about any laws pertaining to your chosen species, and whether or not you will need a permit.

Find out everything there is to know about the species you are thinking of.

Buy a good care guide, talk to your vet, surf the net and contact other people who have the same pet to find out the pros and cons.

How much space will your pet require? or will it need the run of your house? If it needs regular exercise, make sure you can put aside enough time each day.

How long will your pet live? Some species of reptile may outlive you, so are you prepared to spend the whole of your life looking after it?

Can you handle your pet? Tarantulas may bite if they feel threatened and release hairs that can irritate your skin and eyes.

It may be difficult to find a vet who has experience with exotic pets. Find out if there is one local to you. Children and exotic pets rarely mix.

Some species are potentially dangerous to people and other animals. If you have other pets, be sure that they will get on with an exotic species.

Exotic pets have specific dietary requirements, and may need to be fed with foods that you feel uncomfortable handling, such as frozen mice or live locusts.

The cost of accommodation, food and vet bills is likely to exceed the initial price of the pet, so think carefully about whether you are prepared for the expense.

Will your pet need company? Some species become stressed if kept alone, whereas others will prefer to be solitary.

Tarantulas, iguanas, salamanders and snakes are all becoming more and more popular as pets.

Proteus rescue sanctuary

Many do not follow those common-sense guidelines!

Which is why, hidden down a side street in Handsworth in Birmingham, there is the biggest reptile rescue sanctuary in the UK.

Staff at Proteus are working round the clock dealing with unwanted exotic pets.

Proteus is a registered charity, whose aims are to take in and care for sick, injured and unwanted reptiles from all over Britain.

It is staffed totally by volunteers.

Since its founding, the rescue service has dealt with hundreds of turtles, snakes, lizards and various species of invertebrates.

The rescue service is presently used by not only the general public but also by zoos, various Police forces and the RSPCA.

This service is carried out with the use of a veterinary ambulance, the first reptile ambulance in the U.K.

The ambulance covers the UK mainland and is on call 24 hours a day.

Succour to rescued pets

The majority of the animals which come into the rescue require a lot of attention.

Many suffering from severe burns, missing limbs, malnutrition and general neglect.

Months can be spent trying to regain the animals confidence and trust.

When the animal has recovered from its illness, it is then placed in the rehoming centre where it awaits a future caring home.

None of the animals which come into the care of Proteus are ever sold.

In recent weeks, they have rescued, a corn snake, a leopard deco and a 14ft Burmese python.

See also ...

BBC: Exotic Pets
BBC: Pet shops 'offer sub-standard care'
RSPCA Online
International Herpetological Society
British Chelonia Group
British Tarantula Society

On the rest of the web
Exotic Pets
Exotic Pets Websites
UK Links Page

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

I keep reptiles and hate anti-erptile protesters. I completely agree many people treat reptiles badly but nowhere nearly as many that treat them well. im sure from what i see on tv that dogs and cats (not native to england) are also commonly miskept but this does not mean there will ever be an outright ban on dog keeping. i feel the only correct opinions on reptile keeping can come from reptile keepers themselves.

I own exotic pets and i think it's appauling that people buy them before they know anything about them. When buying any pet you should find out at least it's minimal requirements. Petshops should make sure the people buying these animals know how to care for them properly and then less reptiles would be abandoned.

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