THERE was a time in the not too distant past when people were content to own a dog, a cat or a budgie.

But films such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Finding Nemo and even the owls in Harry Potter have led to increasing demands for trophy pets.

A massive tarantula in a glass tank might well make an interesting conversation piece, but how happy is it in an alien environment such as ours?

There are, of course, many people with a deep interest in the weird and wonderful who have done all the research, invested in the equipment and created the best conditions.

But sadly, anyone can buy whatever they like these days with few enforceable laws in place and precious little background checks on their ability to be a responsible owner.

Increasingly, so-called celebrities have been known to flaunt miniature dogs in handbags – regarding them almost as a baby substitute.

The problem lies in our perception of what animals are for.

They are not material possessions for showing off or toys to be discarded when the novelty has worn off.

They are to be looked after and cared for, just like you would with your own children. The RSPCA is right to draw attention to these ridiculous fads.

At the rate things are going, they’ll be warning us soon that a snake is for life, not just for Christmas.