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Last updated January 1, 2014

Mine's an Iguana

Evening News, Scotland, 03/22/00


They were dreamed up by advertisers eager to sell beer - but the success of the Budweiser lizards has dealt a blow to the health of iguanas and chameleons across the Lothians.

Animal welfare officers believe the current series of commercials for the popular lager is behind a sudden rise in the number of sick and abandoned lizards in the area.

And now they are urging people to avoid buying the exotic pets, which require specialist care and conditions if they are to survive in captivity.

The series of adverts features showdowns between computer generated lizards and frogs in a pond outside a pub.

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh has seen the numbers of lizards brought in increase sixfold in the last few months and eight have been rescued by the SSPCA in Edinburgh during the last six months.

SSPCA Chief Inspector Mike Flynn said: "One thing that worries us is that these lizards are starting to take off as pets following the Budweiser campaign.

"It's not the kind of thing we'd advise the pet trade to sell or people to buy because 99 per cent of them will die because they're not properly cared for.

"We are now starting to see them getting dumped. There was one just left in a box in the middle of Leith Walk the other week.

"We have had two come in during the last week which brings it to eight in the last six months. Before then we'd not seen any."

The growth in demand of lizards is the latest case of pet trends being influenced by television and the cinema.

From turtles to Dalmatians, animals in the media can have a dramatic effect on sales in pet shops.

SSPCA spokeswoman Doreen Graham said: "A number of film and TV shows affect trends in pets.

"In the Ninja Turtles phase we had a lot of turtles that had been bought when they were the size of a 50p piece and abandoned in the canals of Edinburgh when they became too big and smelly to keep.

"After that we had a problem with dogs when they remade 101 Dalmatians. We also had problems with Jurassic Park with pets like water dragons. "And now we are seeing problems with the Budweiser ads.

"The ones on the commercial are computer generated and they're fine but people are looking to take up chameleons and iguanas as pets and they just don't survive.

"Generally we would advise people not to buy exotic pets. These things may look cute and fascinating but they're not toys. They need specialist care and attention to look after them."

A recent campaign by the SSPCA has seen all pet shops which sell exotic animals agree to have a member of staff trained by the society and the Scottish Veterinary School to give out detailed advice in their care. Some species are now banned from import into the UK.

Grant Menzies, who works in the Aquatic Centre and Aquacadabra 2 near Murrayfield, said: "We have had a lot of enquiries about chameleons.

"But when people see how much they cost and what's required to keep them they are put off.

"If you have got enough room and money then they would be a brilliant pet but they certainly take more work to look after than a dog."

And Emma Keeble, head of exotic animal services at Edinburgh University, said: "We are seeing a lot of iguanas and chameleons on our case load at the moment. "We used to see maybe one a fortnight but in the last couple of months we have been getting two or three a week. Most of the problems we have seen have been caused by bad husbandry.

"They have specialised dietary needs -they are completely herbivorous and some people have been feeding them dog and cat food.

"They also need vitamin supplements otherwise they are prone to break bones. They need special tanks to live in since they grow very big and need UV lighting otherwise they get weak bones.

"They also need quite high temperatures to live in and they're likely to get immune deficiency.

"The other big problem is when they reach sexual maturity they may become quite aggressive, especially towards their female owners - they can sense their pheromones.

"They are definitely not something that we would recommend as a pet.

"Any film or advertising inevitably raises the profile and the pet shops start selling more of these animals."

A Budweiser spokesman said: "All of our ads are designed to promote sales of Budweiser. We are not able to comment on issues that don't affect the industry we operate in."

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