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GBR Press: Rejects look forward to home

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Sun Dec 23 17:32:09 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY (Edinburgh, UK) 23 December 07 Santa's rejects look forward to home fit for lounge lizards (Murdo MacLeod)
An iguana is for life...not just Christmas. And that is why animal protection chiefs are to build Scotland's first dedicated shelter for abandoned exotic pets.
The number of rare and unusual species ditched by owners has rocketed in recent years, forcing the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to build a dedicated care unit capable of housing up to 40 animals.
In the past five years, the number of snakes handed in to the SSPCA's centre in Balerno, Edinburgh, has doubled. Lizards and tropical spiders are also routinely abandoned and have to be given temporary accommodation in facilities originally designed to house puppies.
The SSPCA will spend £1.5m on refurbishing its existing centre, most of which will go on a ward of 40 vivariums, specially heated and lit tanks in which everything from alligators and boa constrictors to scorpions and stick insects can be safely kept.
One of the biggest problems with the existing "puppy room" is that the area does not have enough electric sockets to allow lamps and heaters to be plugged in. The Society looks after the animal until they can find it a permanent home.
Recent years have seen a rise in the number of exotic animals handed in to the refuge. Five years ago, the SSPCA's Lothian refuge could expect about 30 snakes to be handed in a year. In the past 12 months that figure has risen to 60.
Recent challenges have included a 15-foot boa constrictor, which was handed in by an owner who found that it was taking over his home after it grown. Despite its fearsome size, the snake normally eats nothing bigger than a rabbit. A spokeswoman for the SSPCA said: "We need this unit because of the rise in exotic pets. We're getting everything from stick insects and giant spiders to iguanas and tropical snakes and we have a duty to care for them. Owners are shocked at the size some of the exotics grow to. An iguana can reach four or five feet in length and after it's about three years old the male becomes sexually mature and can be aggressive towards women and give them some pretty nasty scratches."
Sometimes owners and pets cannot get on from the very beginning. The spokeswoman cited the case of an enthusiast who bought a basilisk, a Central American lizard which can run across water. Despite researching the animal in great detail and buying all the best equipment to allow him to look after it, the owner had not counted on the possibility that having a "Jesus Lizard" near to him might cause him some nerves. He found that he was frightened of the creature and handed it over to the SSPCA.
The spokeswoman said: "He had all the gear, he had spent lots of money. That vivarium was the closest thing I have seen to basilisk heaven, and would have made that basilisk very happy. Problem was that the owner was scared of it and had to give it to us."
The SSPCA has also recently had to handle a five-foot caiman, a type of American alligator, which was found by inspectors in Oban. In addition, they have also looked after an Australian parrot called a golden-mantled rosella, and an emperor scorpion, which had been sent through the post to the wrong address and which shocked the recipient when he opened the parcel.
Kenny Sharp, the assistant manager of the Lothian centre said: "It's become a major issue in recent years. I find that we are getting every kind of animal in here. My own favourite was an iguana who was brought in very unwell and who we nursed back to health.
"Caring for iguanas in particular can be very difficult. For some reason, owners think they eat meat and they don't. They need special UV bulbs because the iguanas get some of their calcium from the light. But that light loses its UV power after a few months even though it still looks as if it's working, and the poor iguana is suffering. We have even had abandoned tropical fish which have been left outside in their tanks."
Pet shop manager Allan Locke, who runs Aqualand Pets in Edinburgh, said: "There are some owners out there who just have a fascination for something different. The trade has been big in recent years."
Santa's rejects look forward to home fit for lounge lizards


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