A heartless man who abandoned his bearded dragon Spike with no heating, light, water or food in a flea-infested flat has been banned from keeping animals.

Joe Timbs left the animal at his old flat for two weeks after moving out before RSPCA inspectors discovered the animal malnourished and with his bones clearly showing.

A court heard that a vet who inspected Spike discovered he was collapsed and emaciated, weight only 160g. His muscles were wasting away with the bones of the skull, spine, pelvis and tail clearly visible, suggesting he could have been suffering for two months.

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RSPCA inspector Kirsty Keogh-Laws said who found the animal said: “When I arrived at the property, no-one answered the door.

“I called Mr Timbs who told me that he had moved out a couple of weeks ago, but had left his pet bearded dragon - named Spike - there.  I was very concerned for the welfare of the abandoned animal.

The Northern Echo: Spike the bearded dragonSpike the bearded dragon (Image: RSPCA)

“When the landlord’s agent let me into the property to check on the bearded dragon, it seemed darker and colder inside than it was outside as there was no light or heating. Once the power was switched on, I found the little animal in a vivarium.

“There was no food or water available, the flat was infested with fleas and there was an open box of live locusts loose in the property. Poor Spike appeared pale and very underweight - I could easily see his hips, ribs and spine and I could also make out the bone structure of his head. His eyes were almost closed and at that point, I believed he was dead.

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“He felt very cold, but miraculously, when I touched him, he did slightly open his eyes, so I rushed him to a vet.”

Spike was placed in intensive care under a heat lamp, rehydrated and fed. Within twelve days his weight had doubled to a healthy 320g.

Appearing before Teesside Magistrates Court on May 19 Timbs, 20, of Dovecot Street, Stockton was banned from keeping any animal for three years.

He was also given an 18-month community order with 150-hours of unpaid work and 20 days of rehab activity. He was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £114.

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Inspector Keogh-Laws added: “It was touch and go for Spike but he responded well to the expert care he received. Happily, after he was transferred to Reptilia - a specialist exotics rehoming centre - he found his forever home.

“This rescue had a happy ending, but it could have been very different. Abandoning an animal is never acceptable and should never be an option.

“We do understand that people’s circumstances may change, but if anyone is struggling to cope with their pet, we would urge them to reach out for help from experts, friends or family, or charities.”