RSPCA pet reptile rescues of lizards and snakes rise

By Ceri Coleman-Phillips
BBC News

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bearded dragons were among the most common rescues last year

The number of pet reptiles rescued by the RSPCA in Wales has risen from 60 in 2011 to 105 last year, new figures show.

They also reveal a further 86 animals were collected in 2017 up to November.

From 2011 to 2016, 558 animals including species of snakes, terrapins, tortoises and lizards, were rescued.

The charity said reptiles have complex needs and warned potential owners they should "thoroughly research" what care they require.

Incidents reported to RSPCA Cymru about pet reptiles also increased by almost 70%, with 362 in 2016 compared to 216 in 2011 and 1,874 in total over the whole period.

So far in 2017, there have been 335 reports.

Image caption,
The top 10 reptiles rescued by the RSPCA in Wales in 2016

Nicola White, a senior RSPCA officer in exotic animal welfare, said reptile rescues had become a "big part of our inspectorate's workload" and "sadly, we often witness and experience neglect of reptiles kept as pets".

Among the incidents were:

Image source, Caroline Marlow
Image caption,
This tortoise was rescued by a motorist who found it trying to cross the Severn Bridge

Ms White said reptiles are commonly found in pet shops and are available for sale online.

"But they are often sold to buyers with very little or no information about how to care for them or the commitment that is involved in keeping them healthy," she said.

"An owner who has never kept a reptile before may not understand how to set up a vivarium (tank) properly or how to tell if their reptile is unwell and needs to see a specialist exotics vet."

Image source, RSPCA
Image caption,
A Carolina corn snake was rescued from a water treatment works near Caernarfon

RSPCA Cymru has also responded to calls about pet primates.

In April last year officers rescued a marmoset monkey after it was spotted for sale on a social media site.

They found Lola living in "hugely inappropriate conditions" in a house in Blaenymaes, Swansea.

She was running loose in the living room with a dog she would often try to attack.

Dr Ros Clubb from the RSPCA said: "Calls to our inspectorate about pet primates in Wales are rarer than the more prevalent pet reptiles - but, nonetheless, the consequences on welfare in these instances can be severe."

She said it feared there are many more primates like Lola who are being "kept behind closed doors in similar circumstances".

Image source, RSPCA
Image caption,
Lola was being kept in a 1m (3ft) cage in the living room of a house

The RSPCA estimates there are more than 120 primates kept privately in homes across Wales.

But Dr Clubb said: "With very little regulation, especially for more commonly kept species, no one really knows for sure.

"They have very specific needs that can't be met in a typical household and suffering can be extreme."

The charity is continuing to campaign for a pet primate ban in Wales.

Image source, RSPCA
Image caption,
This marmoset monkey had to be put down after it was found in an "appalling condition" on a street in Newport