10/14/2014 09:57 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST

Exotic Snakes, Lizards Being Abandoned In BC

Dewdney Animal Hospital

More and more exotic animals like snakes and lizards are being dumped around the Lower Mainland and being left with the SPCA, says a local veterinarian.

"Unfortunately, this summer has been very bad in the fact that people have been dumping these pets on the SPCA or just out in the wild," says Dr. Adrian Walton with the Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge. 

Walton says he normally has three or four such animals in his care.

He now has 18.

"I've never seen this many animals in such a short period of time," he says, adding he's not sure why so many of the creatures are being abandoned.

The SPCA says in one six-week period in Burnaby alone, two pythons, a chameleon and an African tortoise were found as stray animals and taken to its office.

The back room of Walton's clinic is filled with glass-lined cages containing albino Burmese pythons, a red-tailed boa constrictor, ball pythons and a Bearded Dragon. Several turtles are also in cages.

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"Many of these animals were seized in abandoned apartments," says Walton. "A couple of them were found running loose in Coquitlam, as well as Burnaby."

Vet says people get bored

Several of the creatures are illegal under provincial law, but others, like ball pythons, are allowed.

Walton says in one case, a man surrendered a snake when he discovered it was not a ball python, but an illegal eight-foot long Burmese python.

He says many people buy exotic animals for the novelty, but eventually get bored.

"They're moving away and leaving these animals in an apartment with no heat, no food, no water, hoping that someone will take them on." Walton says.

Last summer, Walton took in a sick albino Burmese python that had been dumped in the woods near Chilliwack.

He recently found it a proper home, but the empty cage was soon full.

"The day I'm sending it out, I get a call from the B.C. Reptile Club saying, 'Hey, we've got this other one, can you take it?'" laments Walton, guiding the large snake into a new cage.

He says people also drop the animals off with the SPCA, but he contends the Agency is not equipped to care for them.

Walton says people need to think very carefully before buying an animal like a python or a lizard and make they are prepared to take care of it properly.

Sara Dubois, the B.C. SPCA's chief scientific officer, says some of the exotic species which are dumped outside, like turtles, overtake local ecosystems.

"We'd rather not have people have exotic animals as pets, period," says Dubois.