Exotic pets suffer lingering deaths

RSPCA concerned about trade in reptiles as pets

source: Paul Brown
Guardian March 13 2002 p9

The RSPCA is concerned about trade in reptiles as exotic pets, since many new owners do not know how to look after them. The RSPCA wants a ban on importing some species that are difficult to care for. Almost 25% of the imported reptiles are dead when they arrive at the importers.

Some reptiles can grow to be very large. Spectacled caimans can reach nine feet, and live to be 100-years-old. Monitor lizards can reach over six feet and are able to eat dogs and cats. Species growing as large as this are often dumped, but most die before they grow large. Reptiles have been found with rickets, lamp burns, and rotting limbs and mouths.

The UK represents one of the biggest EU markets for exotic reptiles. Over the last decade, the EU has imported 176,000 chameleons, 80,000 monitor lizards, and 28,000 crocodiles, all under license. There are also cases of reptiles smuggled into Britain.

Space and diet are serious problems. Pet shops may give the wrong advice. Terrapins and tortoises tend not to have big enough enclosures, and this applies to over half of snake tanks and enclosures.

Reptiles may also bite, and bites can transmit infection, while some are venomous.