Man who starved lizard to the point it had to be put down handed ban

Coco the bearded dragon lizard was found in a 'shocking' state by Scottish SPCA staff at Gary Ross's home in Dufftown.

Gary Ross from Dufftown starved lizard to the point it had to be put down handed ban at Elgin Sheriff Court Scottish SPCA

A man has been handed a one-year ban on keeping animals and 90 hours of unpaid work after he starved his bearded dragon lizard so badly that he had to be put to sleep.

Gary Ross from Dufftown in Moray pled guilty to causing unnecessary suffering through failing to provide an adequate diet and care for the lizard, named Coco, at Elgin Sheriff Court on December 21 2022.

The 35-year-old was sentenced on March 16 2023 at the same court.

Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA discovered the lizard in a “shocking” condition in the property following Ross’s arrest.

Scottish SPCA chief inspector Alison Simpson said: “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.”

Coco had to be euthanised to end his suffering.Scottish SPCA

The animal charity attempted to feed Coco by offering him a mealworm cut into small pieces, but he was unable to swallow and just held the food in his mouth.

An emergency appointment was made at a veterinary surgery where Coco was placed in warm, shallow water to heat up, however he was still unable to swallow.

Ms Simpson added: “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.”

Inspectors said that it would have taken a number of weeks for Coco to end up in that state.

She said: “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.

“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.

“We hope that Ross seriously considers his ability to care for any animal in future.”

If anyone has concerns about an animal they should call our confidential helpline on 03000 999 999.

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