REPTILE rescuer Jacqui Bell shares her Wearside home with 21 turtles.
The 43-year-old is calling on people to take better care of the creatures after an increase in the number being abandoned.
Jacqui, who looks after the turtles at her home in Silksworth, is appealing for animal lovers to come forward to give them a home or make donations to help fund their care.
“People get them when they’re small and when they grow too big they want to get rid of them,” she said.
“In some cases they are just dumped and found in the street.
“Pet shops tell people what they want to hear, that they won’t grow very big. But they grow to about 10 to 12 inches.”
Jacqui joined the Turtle Rescue UK network about a year ago, operating a rehoming centre for the Sunderland and Durham area.
Jacqui, who lives with rescue dogs Billy and Bobby, also works in an RSPCA charity shop.
“I had two turtles of my own, and then I rescued some and it seemed to go from there. People would come to me, and I got invited to be part of Turtle Rescue UK, which was featured on the BBC’s One Show last year,” she said.
“People bring turtles to me and I look after them and rehouse them.”
She said turtles got a bad name when stories broke of a snapping turtle which had munched its way through fish and ducklings in a South Wales pond.
But Jacqui stressed this was a particular type of carnivorous turtle, and common pet turtles did not pose a threat to families.
Jacqui’s home has three hospital tanks, and she takes in turtles and terrapins as well as offering advice to keepers of the shelled reptiles.
Anyone wishing to adopt or sponsor a turtle can find Jacqui’s contact details online at www.turtlerescueuk.co.uk.