We received 15,000 calls about exotic animals in 2018 alone

We received 15,000 calls about exotic animals in 2018 alone


Today we're releasing our annual statistics, which reveal the plights of our unusual animals.

Calls about exotics up 13 percent

Across England and Wales in 2018, the number of calls received by our 24-hour cruelty hotline increased by 13 percent (from 2017) to 1,175,193 calls. We received around 15,790 in 2018 about exotics alone - that's more than 40 a day - or more than one per hour

We believe the reason behind some of the suffering of these exotics pets is owners who don't research the animal's needs using expert sources and don't understand the type and amount of care that a specific animal needs. This results in the animal escaping, being abandoned or neglected. Scientifically-based expert care information for exotic animals can be hard to find and an inexperienced owner may not be able to tell the difference between quality and inaccurate information.

Stephanie Jayson, our senior scientific officer in exotics and qualified exotics vet, said:

Although their numbers are small compared to more common pets, we have real concerns about the welfare of exotic animals kept as pets.

Exotic pets are completely reliant on their owners to meet their needs including requiring the correct levels of heat, light and humidity, plus an appropriate diet. Some species require a licence or paperwork to be legally kept or sold. 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. 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. It's essential that people research what is required in caring for their pet - including food, equipment, environment and vet care - before taking one on. We would also urge owners to ask for help if they're struggling to meet their pets needs.

We believe that people may buy exotic pets with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep. Sometimes animals are 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.

Over 4,000 exotic animal rescued in 2018

Raccoon dog © RSPCA

Our team of specially trained exotics officers rescued over 4,000 exotic animals in 2018.

These included more than 500 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby.

Some of the incidents involving exotic animals that our hard-working team has dealt with include:

  • A royal python found dead in Cwmbran, Wales with bruising around its mouth in January 2018. Inspectors suspect he was beaten before being abandoned.
  • In February 2018, two stray raccoon dogs were found within a mile of each other in the same Cumbrian village of Burneside, believed to be 'pets' from the same home. (we strongly believe that these animals shouldn't be kept as pets as it's not possible to meet their needs in a domestic environment).
  • In June last year, a bearded dragon was found abandoned next to bins in a Nike shoe box in Sittingbourne, Kent. Owing to an old tail injury, he was named Stumpy and was put up for rehoming.
  • In December 2018, a dead marmoset monkey was found in a street in Edmonton, London.

Stephanie continued:

It's heartbreaking to see animals like this found injured or suffering as stray or abandoned animals outside in inappropriate temperatures. Some of the animals we see, like monkeys and raccoon dogs, have no place in the home and we would urge people not to take them on as pets. Others are still a long-term commitment and need specialist care and equipment so we urge anyone considering taking an exotic pet on to fully research their needs using expert sources. We would also urge people to consider rescuing rather than buying.

Our annual stats also reveal:

Our officers investigated 130,767 complaints of cruelty involving all animals. We received:

  • 162,539 calls about dogs
  • 135,538 calls about cats
  • 30,216 calls about horses
  • 7,162 calls about rabbits.

More information and how you can help

To find exotic animals looking for a home, visit Find a Pet.

For information about exotic animals kept as pets, you can visit our exotics section.

To help our inspectors and centres continue rescuing animals in need, please consider a donation today.

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