THE founder of a reptile rescue charity has urged people to be certain of their commitment before adopting an exotic animal as a pet.
Joe Griffin, of Hartlepool-based North-East Reptile Rescue (NERR), was speaking at a reptile show in Darlington.
A long-time reptile enthusiast, Mr Griffin set up NERR eight years ago, after friends and acquaintances began dumping their unwanted pets at his door.
A not-for-profit organisation, NERR is currently going through the process of becoming a charity.
Currently run from the homes of its volunteers and staff, Mr Griffin hopes to set up the organisation in its own premises, but a lack of funding has so far prevented this.
He said: "What funds we do manage to raise goes straight back into the animals, for food, vets' bills and other expenses."
NERR's main aim is to re-home animals, but Mr Griffin said this is not always easy.
He said: "The list of reasons for people not wanting their exotic animal any longer is as long as your arm - economic reasons, a change in family circumstances or they simply did not realise how big a commitment it was.
"My biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking of getting an exotic animal as a pet would be to do your research.
"Then, when you think you've exhausted all your options, do some more research.
"Most exotic animals will live a lot longer than your average cat or do.
"When people buy an exotic animal, there is a lot of years they have to spend looking after it."
Although no animals were on sale at Sunday's (August 10) event, at Longfield School, there were plenty on display, including snakes from The Reptile Room, in Lancashire.
Other attractions included talks by reptile experts and the chance for potential pet owners to learn more about owning an exotic animal.
For more details, visit ihs-web.org.uk or nerr.co.uk