Energy costs force owners to give up their pet reptiles

Energy costs force owners to give up their pet reptilesReptile owners are facing a difficult choice as the rising cost of living makes it harder to afford the electricity bills for their pets’ habitats. Many are surrendering or abandoning their reptiles to rescue centres or the wild, putting their health and welfare at risk.

Teresa Morris, a 35-year-old mother of two from Kent, had to give up her corn snake Ziggy to a reptile welfare centre after she could no longer pay for his heating and lighting. She said: “I love Ziggy, but I had to choose between him and feeding my kids. It broke my heart to let him go, but I had no other option.”

Ziggy is one of the many reptiles that have been given up or dumped by their owners in recent months. According to the RSPCA, they received 1,175 calls about abandoned reptiles in 2022, a 28% increase from 2021. The charity also said that they rescued 4,651 reptiles in 2022, a 12% increase from 2021.

Reptiles are ectothermic animals, which means they need external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They also need specific lighting conditions to mimic their natural day and night cycle and help them synthesise vitamin D. These requirements mean that reptile owners need to provide them with specialised equipment, such as heat lamps, heat mats, UVB bulbs, and thermostats, that consume a lot of electricity.

However, with the average electricity bill in the UK rising by 13% in 2022, many reptile owners are struggling to keep up with the costs. Some are resorting to turning off their reptiles’ heating and lighting for periods of time, which can cause serious health problems for the animals, such as respiratory infections, metabolic bone disease, and stress. Others are simply abandoning their reptiles in unsuitable environments, such as parks, gardens, or bins, where they are likely to die from exposure, starvation, or predation.

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Reptile rescue centres are also feeling the pressure of the energy crisis. They are overwhelmed by the influx of unwanted reptiles and the rising costs of running their facilities. Some are relying on donations and fundraising campaigns to keep their doors open and their animals alive.

Chris Newman, the chairman of the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association (REPTA), said: “The situation is dire for both reptile owners and rescuers. Reptiles are not disposable pets. They are complex and sensitive creatures that need proper care and attention. We urge anyone who is thinking of getting a reptile to do their research and make sure they can afford the long-term commitment. We also appeal to anyone who is struggling with their reptile to seek help from a reputable rescue centre instead of abandoning them.”