THE RSPCA has received almost 500 calls about neglected, abandoned and stray exotic animals in Hampshire in the last year, new figures have revealed.

The UK animal welfare charity released its annual statistics on Thursday last week, which revealed a total of 490 calls regarding unusual animals in the county.

Last year, the number of calls to the RSPCA increased by 13 per cent when compared to 2017 making a total of 1,175,193 calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline.

The charity received around 15,790 calls about exotic animals last year, which works out at more than 40 a day.

The RSPCA rescued more than 4,000 exotic animals in 2018, including more than 500 snakes, 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs, four marmosets and one wallaby.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA’s 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 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.

"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, including 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."