A mother-of-two who kept two lizards in ‘heartbreaking’ conditions has been given a suspended prison sentence and banned from keeping animals.
Sarah Collier, 31, hoped her children would take an interest in her bearded dragons Sasha and Sampson, Hartlepool Magistrates Court heard.
“Her care of the animals was appalling,” said John Ellwood, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA.
“They were starved, kept in inappropriate conditions and allowed to suffer through Ms Collier’s failure to attend to their illnesses.
“The RSPCA received a complaint about the condition of Collier’s dog.
“An inspector called and found the dog was in an acceptable condition, but the bearded dragons were not.
“Neither had any food or water, and one appeared to be thin.”
The court heard the inspector advised Collier on the care of the dragons.
“There was a series of follow-up visits, said Mr Ellwood. “The condition of the dragons did not improve.
“An offer was made to take them into the care of RSPCA, but this was refused.”
The court was told the dragons have since been cared for by the RSPCA and have made a full recovery.
Collier, formerly of Hawthorn Street, now of Glebe Avenue, both Easington, admitted three offences of animal cruelty between December, last year, and January 30, this year.
John Relton, defending, said in mitigation: “Ms Collier took on the dragons from her mother in the hope her children would take an interest in them and learn about animals.
“But the children preferred more modern distractions such as computers and games consoles.
“She fed the dragons what she thought was an appropriate diet, and provided what she thought was adequate heat.
“She now regrets not taking the RSPCA’s offer to re-home them.
“Her day consists of getting the children to school before visiting her mother who she cares for.”
The magistrates sentenced Collier to eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, 10 rehabilitation activity days, and ordered her to pay £230 costs and victim surcharge.
Collier was banned from keeping all animals except dogs for 10 years.
The exception was made to allow her to keep the dog which was the subject of the original complaint.
Speaking after the case, RSPCA Inspector Lucy Hoehne said: “Sadly these poor bearded dragons were suffering because they were not being given the correct food or environment to live in.
“In this case we visited the owner and tried to help her, and advise her on what bearded dragons need and how to look after them.
“Sadly the guidance we gave her was never acted upon, and these poor animals just deteriorated.
“They were so thin, it was heartbreaking.
“What is even more upsetting is that this situation was completely avoidable.”
Insp Hoehne urged anyone thinking of keeping an exotic pet to do their research before buying.
“Unfortunately there is often a lack of understanding on the owner’s part of what these exotic animals need, said Insp Hoehne. “They are not easy to look after.
“Exotic pets are commonly found in pet shops nowadays, however it is sadly often the case that they are handed over to buyers with very little or no information about how to care for them or the commitment that is involved in keeping them happy and healthy.
“Bearded dragons can live for up to 12 years in captivity, which a lot of people don’t realise.
“It is for this reason that the RSPCA urges potential owners to research and look into what is required in the care of their exotic pet before taking one on, so they know what is involved and how long it is likely to be for.”