It shouldn't happen to a reptile

Reptiles abandoned by their owners in the UK

source: Sally Weale
Guardian G2 January 1 2003
starts p2, 2 pages long

Iguanas have become fashionable as pets in the UK, but they are not easy to keep as they mature, and many are abandoned or given up to the RSPCA. Iguanas can reach six feet in length, and need a lot of room as well as heating. Adult male iguanas can also be aggressive. The RPSCA receives an annual average of 370 calls relating to iguanas. Those that are abandoned can survive for some time in the summer, but suffer when the weather turns cold.

The green iguana is the most popular as a UK pet, of the 600 or so types of iguana. They are usually imported from Central America and Mexico at some six month' old, and are attractive creatures, with vivid colours, between six and eight inches in length. They have a strong mating drive, which becomes apparent from the age of two-years-old, and they may try to mate with human females, especially just before menstruation. Their mating tactics include biting and scratching, which can be painful for women, and female iguanas can be hurt.

The RSPCA uses specialist rescue centres, but there is not always enough room for large iguanas, and they sometimes have to be put to sleep. Owners may dump iguanas if rescue centres cannot take them, but this leaves the iguanas to die a painful death from starvation, since they can only eat when they are warm. Iguanas are able to dampen down their metabolisms, and this can slow their heartbeats to just one beat per minute. This makes it difficult to put them to sleep with barbiturates.

People like iguanas because they are exotic, but they are not suited to Britain, and tend not to be given enough room in captivity.