A COUPLE who dumped exotic reptiles in dustbin bag were tracked down after their fingerprints were found on the binliner.

The five bearded dragons were found in hedgerow after they were abandoned and left for dead by civil partners Andrew Bews-Foster, 40, and Rodney Bews-Foster, 44. The pair have now been told they could be banned from keeping animals for ten years after they admitted animal cruelty offences in court.

RSPCA prosecutor Matthew Knight told New Forest magistrates the couple had owned the reptiles, which required a special diet and an ultra-violet light source, for about two years.

When they appeared to be off their food and sluggish Andrew Bews-Foster believed them to be dead and dumped them in two New Forest District Council dustbin bags.

They were later found in a hedge in Whitsbury Road, Fordingbridge. One of the reptiles was dead, one died later and three survived, the court was told.

The Bews-Fosters were later identified by fingerprints on the refuse sacks.

The couple, who were living at Salisbury Road in Fordingbridge at the time of the offence in April both pleaded guilty to charges under the Animal Welfare Act of not providing five dragons with a suitable environment and to causing unnecessary suffering.

Defence solicitor Chris Gaiger said his clients were under the impression the animals were easy to keep and maintain.

They had bought a large vivarium for the dragons and fed them live locusts. He explained that the couple had moved them into the garage which was thought to be an appropriate location, but the reptiles deteriorated.

Sentencing was adjourned until September 3.

Chairman Ian Eccles warned the defendants to expect a “high level” community order and said he knew there was a veterinary practice within a few yards of the address the couple were sharing.

He added he would be looking to impose a ten-year disqualification from keeping animals.

Andrew Bews-Foster still lives in Salisbury Road but Rodney Bews-Foster now lives in nearby Park Road.

Bearded Dragon Factfile

■ The bearded dragon is so called because when it puffs out its throat the spikes on the end of scales beneath its chin stick out, giving the impression that it has a beard.

■ The beard is intended to make the reptile look larger to potential enemies but is also thought to be a way they communicate between sexes.

■ Bearded Dragons are native to the woodlands and deserts of Australia.

■ They are a tanned or yellow like colour and will eat both insects and vegetables.

■ The bearded dragon will run on its hind legs despite it being slower than running on all fours in an effort to control its body temperature.

■ Adult males can measure up to two feet in length.