Terrapins rescued from small plastic tub of dirty water in Sunderland among 320 RSPCA call outs over exotic pets in Tyne and Wear

These poor terrapins were found swimming in a small plastic tub of dirty water in Sunderland.

By Ross Robertson
Thursday, 25th April 2019, 7:55 am
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 8:04 am
Picture released by the RSPCA of terrapins rescued in Sunderland
Picture released by the RSPCA of terrapins rescued in Sunderland

The plight of the reptiles were among hundreds of calls to the RSPCA regarding exotic pets in Tyne & Wear.

RSPCA officers said the two terrapins were being kept in unsuitable conditions in a plastic tub in shallow, dirty water with an electric light balanced on the top and half a brick submerged in the water to be used as a ‘basking area’.

Picture released by the RSPCA of terrapins rescued in Sunderland

The pair were rescued by RSPCA Chief Inspector Helen Nedley in April last year.

She said: “These poor terrapins were being kept in entirely unsuitable conditions. The appropriate conditions these terrapins needed to be kept in would not have been achievable under the owners' circumstances and so the terrapins were signed over to us and rehomed to an animal rescue centre who could provide the ideal environment that they deserve.

“This pair have had a bit of a rough start in life and their story demonstrates just how wrong some owners are getting it with their exotic pets.”

Ms Nedley, said although their numbers are small compared to more common pets, the RSPCA has real concerns about the welfare of reptiles and other exotic animals kept as pets or entertainment in this country.

Picture released by the RSPCA of terrapins rescued in Sunderland

“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. Many of the animals we’re called to help are found stray outside, where they can very quickly suffer in the cold," she said.

“These animals are commonly found for sale in pet shops and are advertised online.

"At least 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, from food, equipment, environment and vet care, before taking one on. We would also urge them to ask for help if they’re struggling to meet their needs.

“We believe that people may buy them with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep and the animals are sometimes neglected when the novelty wears off and the commitment hits home. This is why we would encourage anyone thinking of getting an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they’re the right pet for them.”

Picture released by the RSPCA of terrapins rescued in Sunderland

Ms Nedley said the RSPCA has concerns about the keeping of exotic pets such as terrapins as they have complex needs which are not easily met within a home environment.

Terrapins can live for around 30 years in captivity so it is essential that any keepers are able to provide for them for their whole life.

The charity said such animals should be housed in large tanks or aquariums or secure outdoor ponds with adequate heating and lighting.

They need an area known as a ‘basking zone’ where they can absorb warmth and another area to cool down.

The heated zone should be provided with a heat lamp of 30-32°C. They need constant access to clean water so tanks or aquariums will need a powerful filtration system to keep the water fresh.

The terrapins' case was highlighted by the RSPCA, the UK’s largest and oldest animal welfare charity, as the organisation released its annual statistics today revealing the plight of the more unusual animals being kept as pets and for entertainment in the UK.

Nationally, the charity received a total of 15,790 calls about abandoned, stray, sick, suffering and neglected exotic reptiles, mammals, birds and fish, more than 40 a day, or more than one every hour.

In Tyne and Wear the charity received 321 calls about exotic animals and rescued 57 exotic animals and seven fish being kept as pets.

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

The charity, which has a team of specially trained exotics officers, rescued more than 4,000 exotic animals in the UK 2018, including more than 500 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby.

Last year overall, the RSPCA received 10,852 calls reporting cruelty, neglect, injury and suffering of all animals last year in Tyne and Wear - a slight rise from 10,763 in 2017 - including 2,115 about cats, 3,317 about dogs and 594 about horses.

The RSPCA’s annual stats also reveal across England and Wales in 2018, the number of calls the RSPCA received to its 24-hour cruelty hotline about all animals increased by 13% from 2017 to 1,175,193 calls.