TERRAPINS, tortoises and a raccoon dog are just some of the exotic animals that have been abandoned in the region over the last year.

More than 230 calls were made in Durham reporting abandoned, stray, and sick exotic reptiles, mammals, birds and fish.

In North Yorkshire, another 240 calls were made.

Animal welfare charity RSPCA released the data in its annual report, noting that number of calls have increased since 2017.

They warned unusual animals being kept as pets, or for entertainment, are quickly abandoned because owners do not do their research and do not understand the type and amount of care needed.

Chief Inspector for the region, Mark Gent, 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 or entertainment 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.

The Northern Echo:

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

“We believe 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.”

In March last year, a raccoon dog was rescued from a home in Durham after its owner kept it in a rabbit hutch.

The Northern Echo:

Native to Siberia, China, North Vietnam, Korea and Japan, it has become illegal to sell new ‘stock’ of raccoon dogs in Europe.

RSPCA inspector Catherine Maddison, who rescued the animal, said: “His owner realised they couldn’t cope caring for the raccoon dog any longer and handed him over to a mobile petting zoo.

“They contacted the RSPCA as they realised he had problems with his legs and needed care. Unfortunately, despite treatment his condition did not improve and it was decided by the vets that he needed to be put to sleep."

To report cruelty or an animal in distress the RSPCA can be called on 0300 1234 999