Diss couple banned from keeping reptiles

A young couple have been banned from keeping reptiles for the next three years after their poor care led to the death of a pet bearded dragon lizard.

Inadequate levels of heat and nutrition were blamed for the death of the lizard, which died three days after the couple sold it to a new owner.

Aaron Cole, 23, and his girlfriend Roxanne Hamilton, 22, were handed the ban at Norwich Magistrates Court yesterday after the RSPCA brought a private prosecution against them.

As well as the three-year ban the couple, who live on Victoria Road in Diss, were also fined �100 each and ordered to equally split paying back a total of �346.90, which included vets bills.

They both pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal between May 25 and August 25 of this year.

Gavin Cowe, in mitigation, explained that the couple had never intended to own the pet. He said: 'Miss Hamilton had been in a relationship prior to her relationship with Mr Cole and her ex left rather abruptly, leaving various possessions behind, including the dragon.

'They didn't know what to do with it so they placed an advert on Free Ads and Facebook but it took some time to find a buyer.

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'They kept the lizard in its tank with its lights and fed it, but not regularly enough.'

It was also pointed out that the pair have two pet dogs which are well looked after, as prosecution lawyer, Jonathan Eales, said: 'It is quite obvious that it is a lack of knowledge and research into the care of reptiles which has led to this distressing incident.'

The couple both individually faced maximum punishment of 51 weeks imprisonment and a fine as high as �20,000.

However, chairman of the sitting magistrates bench, Elaine Donovan, handed the pair the lower fine and three-year ban, saying: 'There were various points of this negligence over a long time, not overnight, and you must have been able to see considerable deterioration of the animal week by week.

'There is a very hard lesson for you to learn but if you do have animals and at any time they are ill, it's best to take them to the vets straight away.

'It's cheaper in the long term and of course if you can't afford animals, then you shouldn't have them as pets.'

david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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