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Animal expert tells of shock.

A ZOOLOGIST who helped rescue hundreds of allegedly neglected exotic animals from a Teesside pet shop said many were on the brink of death.

Animal expert Terry Bowes described some of the animals taken from Petropolis in Billingham as starving, malnourished and infested with parasites.

A number died as he tried to nurse them back to health, he told Teesside Magistrates' Court yesterday, where shopkeepers Lauren Gibson and Craig Basford stand trial on 21 charges of animal cruelty.

"It wasn't until the day I went across to pick up the animals that I realised the magnitude of the whole thing," he said.

"A lot of the animals were in very, very poor condition - very thin. A number of them had mites and things like that."

Mr Bowes said that initially he thought the cramped plastic boxes the reptiles were being kept in were just for transportation.

But he was shocked to learn they were permanently housed in the tubs by the couple, who live in Weardale Crescent.

The court, where Basford, 32, and Gibson, 25 are on trial for 21 offences of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, was shown graphic pictures of the conditions the animals were found in.

They are also accused of 10 licence breaches for their shop in Clifton Avenue.

Among the species treated by Mr Bowes and other volunteers were Spider Geckos and Barking Geckos, all four of which died within a week because they were unable to eat, the zoologist told the court. He also took 18 months to nurse a Solomon Island Boa snake back to health.

Two out of five rescued Monitor Lizards died and all three Leopard Geckos starved to death, the court heard.

The couple are also accused of neglecting rodents, rabbits and other types of animals.

Gibson and Basford each deny 21 allegations of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and breach of their pet shop licence.

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2008
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