A MAN who neglected three pets, including a snake that was found dead at his home, has been given a 12-month suspended prison sentence.

Thomas Bennett, 32, of Rice Lane, Wallasey, was also banned from keeping animals for five years after pleading guilty to three animal welfare charges at Wirral Magistrates' Court.

As well as the python, a dog and bearded dragon were also found in poor health by police and RSPCA inspectors when they visited Bennett's address in February.

Police had come across the animals during an earlier visit to the address on an unrelated matter.

Concerned the property may have been abandoned as they could hear a dog inside and it appeared no-one was living there, they alerted the RSPCA.

RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes, who investigated, said all the animals were found with no food and water.

He said the python was found in a vivarium and had been dead for sometime.

The bearded dragon was in such a bad state of health that police officers initially thought he was also dead.

The dog, a nine-year-old Rottweiler called Bruno, was barricaded in a squalid kitchen which was full of faeces and he was underweight.

Insp Joynes said: "Bruno was locked in a filthy kitchen which had been barricaded shut with furniture.

"He had no food or water and was surrounded by faeces.

"There were some empty dog food cans in the kitchen and because he was so hungry he had started chewing them.

"He was clearly underweight but since he has been the care of the RSPCA he has done really well and it is hoped he will be rehomed soon."

In mitigation, Bennett said he had not fed the bearded dragon and snake for at least six weeks because he said he was struggling financially.

Insp Joynes said: "From the state of decomposition it was clear the snake had been dead sometime.

"The bearded dragon looked close to death but was given specialist medical care - including having a feeding tube inserted into his stomach - and made a full recovery.

"Sadly, recently he developed a tumour in his mouth and a vet decided the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep but I am grateful he enjoyed a few months of life being properly cared for.

"Bennett didn’t even have the right equipment for keeping a bearded dragon - there was no UV light for him and without this they develop bone problems and will be unable to live a healthy life.

"Reptiles and other exotic pets are completely reliant on their owners to meet their welfare needs including requiring the correct levels of heat, light and humidity, plus an appropriate diet.

"People may buy them with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep and the animals are sometimes neglected when the novelty wears off and the commitment hits home.

"This is why the RSPCA would encourage anyone thinking of getting an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they're the right pet for them."

As well as the five year ban on keeping animals and 12-month jail term suspended for 12 months, Bennett was ordered to carry out a 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and ordered to pay £400 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.