1. ITV Report

RSPCA calls for new regulations on keeping exotic pets as cruelty calls increase

The RSPCA received more than 1,600 calls about neglected, abandoned and stray exotic animals in the West Country last year.

Calls to the RSPCA's animal cruelty hotline increased last year from 2017. Credit: RSPCA

Calls to the animal welfare charity's cruelty hotline increased from 2017, according to annual figures released today (Thursday 25 April).

Across England and Wales exotic animals accounted for more than 40 calls a day, or more than one every hour.

The charity says one reason behind the suffering of exotic pets is that owners don't research how to take care of them properly.

This results in them escaping, being abandoned or neglected.

This corn snake was found in a box in Ottery St Mary last year, weighed down with stones. Credit: RSPCA

West Country figures:

Number of calls relating to exotic animals from Bristol
Number of calls from Gloucestershire
Number of calls from Somerset
Number of calls from Wiltshire
Number of calls from Cornwall
Number of calls from Devon
Number of calls from Dorset

In July 2018 a dog walker found two snakes with burns all over their bodies in Cornwall.

One had to be put down "to stop any more suffering" but the second survived and has since recovered, according to the charity.

The animal welfare charity believes people don't do enough research when keeping exotic pets. Credit: RSPCA

RSCPA exotics officer Peter Ferris rescued the animals and said:

A dog walker found one discarded in a pillowcase. The snake was taken to a vet, who was shocked by the state of the burns. A second snake was found in the same area a few days later in a similar condition. It is sickening, upsetting and frustrating that someone could do this. One snake sadly had to be put to sleep straight away to stop any more suffering. Thankfully the second snake survived and has since recovered.

– Peter Ferris, RSPCA exotics officer
In January 2018 the bodies of two snakes were found dumped in a box in Swindon. Credit: RSPCA

The RSPCA is concerned about the welfare of exotic animals that are being kept as pets in the region.

Stephanie Jayson, the RSCPA's senior scientific officer in exotics, said: "Although their numbers are small compared to more common pets, we have real concerns about the welfare of reptiles and other exotic animals kept as pets in this country."

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. Some species can grow very large, live for a long time or require a licence or paperwork to be legally kept or sold. Many of the animals we’re called to help are found stray outside, where they can very quickly suffer in the cold.

– Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA senior scientific officer
This eight-foot-long Boa constrictor was found with an injury to its head at the bottom of some cliffs in Portreath. Credit: RSPCA

They're now calling for new regulations to tackle the problem.

The charity believes owners often buy the animals because they think they'll be easier to care for than other pets.

It's urging people in the region to research what is required in the care of their pet - including food, equipment, environment and vet care - before taking one on.

To find out more, visit their website.