A LIZARD discovered in a Dorset warehouse had travelled more than 4,000 miles from Louisiana in the USA.

The discovery of the green anole lizard in a container in Blandford was one of hundreds of calls received by the RSPCA about exotic animals in Dorset last year.

Figures released today reveal there were 230 calls about neglected, abandoned and stray exotic animals.

The lizard is thought to have survived for three weeks in a shipping container before being discovered in the warehouse of an importer of American soft drinks in November 2018. It was taken to the RSPCA specialist reptile centre in Brighton.

Across England and Wales, the number of calls the RSPCA received to its 24-hour cruelty hotline increased by 13 per cent from 2017 to 1,175,193 calls. The charity received around 15,790 calls about exotic animals, more than 40 a day, or more than one every hour.

The RSPCA believes the reason behind some of the suffering of these exotics pets is that owners do not research their needs using expert sources and don’t understand the type and amount of care that they need, resulting in them escaping, being abandoned or neglected.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA’s senior scientific officer in exotics, 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."

She said some species grow very large, live for a long time and require a licence or paperwork to be legally kept or sold.

She added: "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.

"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.

“We believe that 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.”

The RSPCA rescued more than 500 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby across the UK.