Animal rescue centres in the Borders and, I am sure, around Scotland, are under greater pressure than ever to take in unwanted pets, including reptiles and exotics, due to the rise in pet “supermarkets” and online sales.
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK but the most misunderstood as they are sold as “easy” pets, when in fact they are complicated creatures and rarely receive the care, food and space they need to live a happy, healthy life.
They are often bred in intensive “farms” on the Continent before being transported as babies to the UK.
Recently I saw chipmunks, degus and chinchillas for sale, as well as snakes and other reptiles which all need special care.
Veterinary attention for all these exotic creatures does not come cheap, and I have found so far only Dobbies come clean on their website and explain that vet bills can be high, and if you cannot give the animal veterinary care – don’t acquire it in the first place!
They admit it is cheaper to let a chinchilla die and buy another one, than get veterinary attention.
Many unwanted animals are sold online, and winter is the time when “Easter” rabbits appear as “the kids have got bored with them”.
Apart from second-hand pets, many folk are breeding animals to sell online as a way of making extra cash, and there is the added danger of unhealthy animals being brought in from Eastern Europe.
Dog breeders in Scotland selling more than two litters a year have to be licensed by their local authority, whose regulations can vary, and they can be inspected. It has been suggested that dog-fighting groups target animals being sold online.
We were so impressed when we came to the Borders more than 30 years ago with dog-training clubs in most towns, neutering schemes supported by charities and vets, and the fact that we were welcome in schools to talk about wildlife and pets.
In the opinion of many who care about animal welfare, this present situation is only going to get worse until shops are prevented from selling animals, and online sales are forbidden.
Legitimate breeders could still have a website with their contact details, for genuine enquiries.