ANIMALS bought by school children for their friends form the bulk of unwanted pets handed into an animal rescue centre this Christmas.

The Retreat in Crockenhill has reported a large number of hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and rabbits being handed in as well as exotic animals.

Founder of the Daltons Road centre Billy Thompson said: “It’s mainly small animals bought by school kids for their friends without parental consent.

“Obviously you can buy them very cheaply.”

Mr Thompson says although the centre has taken in seven dogs since Christmas Day, unwanted dogs and cats bought as presents are not usually handed in until Easter, when they are “out of the cute stage”.

This month the centre, which has around 1,000 animals, has received 30 reptiles, including terrapins, geckos and four pythons.

And on one day 60 spiders were handed in, thought to be from a collector trying to market them as Christmas presents.

Mr Thompson said: “People looking for animals should always go to rescue centres as they’re not for commercial gain.

“They always see things from the animal’s point of view.

“If you’re thinking of getting an animal then you should take it very seriously.”