The RSPCA received more than 300 calls about exotic animals last year in Nottinghamshire, new figures show.
The charity has released its annual statistics today (Thursday), which reveal the plight of the more unusual animals being kept as pets in the UK.
Members of the public in the county contacted the charity about exotic animals 302 times in 2018.
Nationally in England and Wales, 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.
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.
Among the exotic animals the RSPCA was called about in Nottinghamshire last year was a tarantula - the size of a hand - found dumped in a park bin.
The white knee tarantula was discovered by a shocked dog-walker on Acorn Avenue, Giltbrook.
RSPCA inspector Teresa Potter said: “There was also a broken tank in the bin, so whoever dumped this spider just carelessly tossed the spider and their home in this bin without any thought for their welfare.
“These tarantulas live in a warm and humid environment in the wild and need the same provided in captivity, to meet their needs and keep them healthy.”
The white knee tarantula can grow up to around eight inches long. Whilst they are capable of biting, their main defence method is by flicking hairs (called ‘urticating setae’) upwards from their abdomen, which can cause irritation to eyes and skin, or to the respiratory tract if inhaled.
This one was taken in by a specialist reptile keeper and the person who dumped the tarantula was never traced.
Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA Senior Scientific Officer for exotics, said: “Although their numbers are small compared to more common pets, 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 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.
“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.”
The RSPCA, which has a team of specially trained exotics officers, rescued over 4,000 exotic animals in 2018, including more than 700 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, six raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby.
Last year, the RSPCA received 10,848 calls reporting cruelty, neglect, injury and suffering of all animals in Nottinghamshire, including 2,654 about cats, 3,305 about dogs and 503 about horses.
The RSPCA’s annual stats also reveal that ccross England and Wales in 2018, the number of calls the charity received to its 24-hour cruelty hotline about all animals increased by 13 per cent from 2017 to 1,175,193 calls.