A SNAKE found near a Taunton church and an unexpected delivery of eight lizards were among calls the RSPCA received concerning exotic animals in Somerset.

The stories were among tales of more unusual animals the charity had to deal with in 2018 and formed part of it's annual statistics, released this week.

Across England and Wales in 2018, the number of calls the RSPCA received to its 24-hour cruelty hotline increased by 13%, from 2017 to 1,175,193 calls.

More than 2,700 cases of animal cruelty in Somerset were investigated, the figures reveal.

Elsewhere, the charity received around 15,790 calls about exotic animals, more than 40 a day, prompting the charity to warn anyone on the lookout for a new pet to do their research.

Among the cases highlighted was one from November 2018, when two runners found a 60cm-long snake abandoned near St Augustine Church in West Monkton, near Taunton.

The snake was discovered dumped inside a green and white, small mammal carry case in Doster’s Lane.

During the same month, eight lizards were found in a shipment of helicopter parts that had unexpectedly arrived in Yeovil from Portugal.

Chard & Ilminster News:

UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL: One of the lizards found in a delivery to Yeovil. PICTURE: RSPCA

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.

"Some species can grow very large, live for a long time or require a licence or paperwork to be legally kept or sold. Many of the animals we’re called to help are found stray outside, where they can very quickly suffer in the cold.

“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."

READ MORE: Shock for joggers after finding 60cm snake in a box

In 2018, the RSPCA, which has a team of specially trained exotics officers, rescued more than 4,000 exotic animals including more than 500 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby.

Some of the incidents involving exotic animals that the RSPCA dealt with include:

• A royal python found dead in Wool Pitch, Cwmbran, Wales with bruising around its mouth in January 2018. Inspectors suspect he was beaten before being abandoned.

• In February 2018, two stray raccoon dogs were found within a mile of each other in the same Cumbrian village of Burneside, believed to be pets from the same home. The RSPCA does not believe these animals should be kept as pets as it is not possible to meet their needs in a domesticated environment.

• Also in January 2018, a very sick 10 ft boa was found in a vivarium in the back seat of an abandoned car in Bristol. He was very weak, in a poor condition and with serious respiratory problems - sadly he had to be put to sleep.

• In June last year, a bearded dragon was found abandoned next to bins in a Nike shoe box in Sittingbourne, Kent. Owing to an old tail injury, he was named Stumpy and was put up for rehoming.

• In December 2018, a dead marmoset monkey was found in a street in Edmonton, London.

Stephanie continued: “It is heartbreaking to see animals like this found injured or suffering as they are stray or abandoned outside in inappropriate temperatures.

"Some of the animals we see, like monkeys and raccoon dogs, have no place in the home and we would urge people not to take them on as pets.

"Others are still a long-term commitment and need specialist care and equipment so we urge anyone considering taking them on to fully research their needs using expert sources, only consider keeping one if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs and consider rescuing rather than buying.”

The RSPCA’s annual stats also reveal:

• Across England and Wales in 2018, the number of calls the RSPCA received to its 24-hour cruelty hotline about all animals increased by 13% from 2017 to 1,175,193 calls.

• The RSPCA investigated 2,735 cases of animal cruelty - relating to all animals - in Somerset last year.

For information about the exotic animals looking for a home at the RSPCA, visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet.