Scots man who starved pet bearded dragon banned from keeping animals for one year
A man who starved his pet bearded dragon for months has been banned from keeping animals for a year.
Gary Ross, of Dufftown in Moray, failed to feed his pet lizard Coco or keep the animal warm. It was found in a badly emaciated state by welfare workers and after a vet inspection, was put to sleep.
The 35-year-old pleaded guilty at Elgin Sheriff Court on 21 December 2022 to causing the reptile unnecessary suffering through failing to provide an adequate diet and care, and was sentenced on March 16 at the same court.
He was banned from keeping animals for one year and ordered to complete 90 hours of unpaid work.
Scottish SPCA chief inspector Alison Simpson said: “We became aware of concerns about a lizard in Gary Ross’s care as he had been arrested.
“In the property we also discovered a bearded dragon named Coco, whose condition was quite shocking. He was emaciated and his eyes were covered over by their nictitating membranes. His spine was visibly raised through his back and tail, his body was flat, and he was extremely lethargic.
“Although Coco was clearly in need of food, he was unable to swallow and even when offered a mealworm cut into small pieces he simply held the food in his mouth.
“We had immediate concerns for Coco’s well-being and called a veterinary surgery to make an emergency appointment. The vet suggested placing Coco in some shallow, warm water in the meantime to see if we could warm him up. This seemed to help to some extent but he was still unable to swallow.
“On arrival at the veterinary practice, we were advised that Coco was in such poor condition that the kindest thing to do would be to euthanise him and end his suffering.
“We arranged for a post mortem to be carried out which found that Coco had no body fat present and his bone marrow had begun to waste away, suggesting a period of weight loss lasting weeks to months. He also had signs of malnutrition and bendy, soft, translucent bones, most likely due to metabolic bone disease. This is a disease associated with poor husbandry as it is caused by a lack of calcium in the animal’s diet or a lack of exposure to UVB light.
“It would have taken a number of weeks for Coco to end up in this state and we would expect a responsible owner to have been able to notice his poor condition and weight loss and arrange for him to see a vet. We would also expect any responsible owner to do their research on the complex care needed by an animal such as a bearded dragon to ensure they didn’t develop these issues in the first place.
She added: “We’re pleased that Gary Ross received a ban but we’re disappointed that it wasn’t for a longer period of time given the neglect Coco suffered."