The rising cost of taking care of reptiles is forcing many owners to dump them.
"I hear people say stuff like, 'I’m moving, and I can’t take care of this dragon.' It’s probably because the dragon isn’t feeling good so they can’t afford their vet bill. Some people say my kids just don’t play with it anymore. That’s a really big one," said Alonna Geerts, owner of Dragon Smart, a pet store in McMinnville, Tennessee.
"We get calls all the time about picking up reptiles and a bunch of exotics to help rescue them," Geerts said.
Owning an exotic pet is a major responsibility. They need food, water and care— just like any other pet.
Geerts said some people aren't ready for the responsibility. She recently received a call from a landlord who asked if they could remove neglected reptiles from a home.
"I was looking around like, 'Oh my gosh.' There was some, unfortunately, deceased," Geerts said.
She also had a neglected bearded dragon dropped off recently. It was left outside a Petsmart. Geerts said a Good Samaritan drove the reptile to her shop in hopes of giving it a fighting chance at survival.
"When he chews, it takes him a long time. Bearded dragons have sharp teeth. He doesn't have any," Geerts said.
Geerts believes people need to do more research before purchasing an exotic pet. She adds that abandoning an animal is never the right choice.
"If you can’t take care of your animal, reach out to someone that can and who is knowledgeable about that," Geerts said.
Geerts said they've rescued hundreds of animals in the last year and been able to provide great homes for them.
This story was originally reported by Aaron Cantrell on newschannel5.com.