Have we been suckered into paying way over the odds for dogs during the covid lockdown restrictions? Such has been the demand for four-legged friends that prices have soared, imports have rocketed and unscrupulous breeders have been cashing in.
Laurence Reed (right) with animal behaviourist Olly Pitt (left) and his rescued Romanian-born Lurcher PICTURES: PAUL WILLIAMS
21st April 2021
But it’s all about to get a whole lot worse, according to animal behaviourist Olly Pitt. He’s warning that the huge number of pets – including exotic ones – will cause a major problem as many of us return to work.
Olly, 19, and partner Olivia upped sticks from Surrey in mid-December to settle here, a county they have loved for years. This shy young man has an incredible passion for animals, so much so that he plans to save some of Cornwall’s weirdest, most wonderful creatures by launching an exotic reptile sanctuary and dog-walking service at their new home in Truro.
He predicts many dogs will be left at home and could suffer from ‘separation anxiety’. Worse still, he’s concerned an increasing number could be abandoned on the streets and left to die – he rescued his own greyhound, Scooby, from such a fate in Romania.
Olly recalls bear-hugging a seven-foot monitor lizard, a swish of whose tail could have broken his ribs, its teeth razor-sharp enough to rip his arm clean off. He has also caressed an alligator-snapping turtle (it’s a real thing, Google it), and cared for meerkats, snakes and terrapins.
Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Ever since they made their TV debut in the 1990s, there has been an explosion in terrapins sales.
This, says Olly, is unfortunate. People are just not aware of the needs of such creatures: special foods, UV lighting and large amounts of warm water. If they are not cared for properly, they can develop metabolic bone disease, which adversely affects the creature’s
limbs, rather like arthritis in humans.
There is evidence that owners who tire of these demands are dumping terrapins in ponds and streams, wiping out all other pond and river life. Terrapins can grow to 25cm in length and are invasive, with no known natural predators.
Olly’s plan is to build enclosures at his home and care for these abandoned creatures. He’s already looking after a royal python, corn snakes, pack-man frogs, leopard geckos and breeding olive tree skink lizards native to India, Malaysia and Thailand.
Although he’s only been in Cornwall a few months, Olly loves the warmth he’s been shown, and claims locals are a lot more respectful of covid restrictions than in his previous home.
His one plea as we head out of lockdown restrictions is to think very carefully before buying any animals or pets.