Rise in exotic animals reported to RSPCA in Essex

PUBLISHED: 09:03 13 May 2019

A rat snake named Kevin was found in a loo in Basildon. Picture: RSPCA

A rat snake named Kevin was found in a loo in Basildon. Picture: RSPCA


An Ostrich-like bird and a rat snake called Kevin who was discovered in a toilet were amongst hundreds of exotic pets found in Essex and reported to the RSPCA last year.

A stray rhea was found in a flower bed in Colchester. Picture: RSPCAA stray rhea was found in a flower bed in Colchester. Picture: RSPCA

The UK's largest and oldest animal welfare charity received more than 560 calls about exotic animals last year in the county, new figures show; a rise from 525 from 2017. In England and Wales, the charity received around 15,790 calls about exotic animals, more than 40 a day.

The RSPCA believes the reason behind some of the suffering of these exotics pets is that owners do not research their needs using expert sources and don't understand the type and amount of care that they need, resulting in them escaping, being abandoned or neglected.

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One unusual animal found in Essex was a stray common rhea, a large bird similar to an ostrich, which was discovered in the flowerbed of a garden in Colchester in November.

In February this year, surprised homeowners in Basildon discovered a rat snake which eventually took refuge in their toilet, where he had been dyed a slight tinge of blue from cleaning products. The snake, called Kevin, was eventually reunited with his owner.

RSPCA exotics officer Joe White said: "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. 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.

"In the past, animals have often been handed over to buyers with little or no information about how to care for them properly, although new regulations in England should improve this. In some cases, we believe owners take them on simply because they believe they will be easier to care for than other pets, but it is essential that people research what is required in the care of their pet before taking one on."

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