THE OWNER of a York pet shop has admitted allowing an animal in his care to suffer.

After a chameleon spent eight days at Acomb Pets, it had pus oozing from a wound, it was unable to eat, it was dehydrated and its skin was dry and paper like, Phil Brown, prosecuting, told York magistrates.

Shopkeeper Mark James Eaton claimed it had been bitten by a locust and that the injury was healing.

He has worked at or run the family-run shop for more than 20 years. It sells small animals and reptiles and has a boarding section,

"He has more than adequate experience of looking after reptiles," said Mr Brown.

"He should have been in a position to recognise the signs of suffering, and he should have sought veterinary treatment to relieve that suffering."

Eaton, 42, of Woodlea Avenue, Acomb, pleaded guilty to allowing an animal to suffer at the shop on Hebden Rise, Acomb, by failing to provide medical treatment to an animal that had an infection and deteriorating body condition. He was prosecuted by the RSPCA.

For him, barrister Shada Mellor said he had acted with good intentions and had not deliberately let the animal suffer.

"There was no malice," she said. "It seems to have been a simple error. He takes the care of animals very seriously."

Eaton was ordered to pay a total of £1,365 consisting of a £923 fine, £350 prosecution costs and a £92 statutory surcharge.

The RSPCA did not ask for him to be disqualified from owning, caring for or having charge of animals.

Mr Brown said the three-year-old chameleon was in reasonable condition when its owner took it to the shop on August 5 for boarding while she got her vivarium's ultra violet light working again.

She provided food locusts and her phone number so that she could be called if there was a problem.

The shop did not call her and she returned to collect her pet on August 13.

"She was very shocked about his appearance," said Mr Brown.

In addition to the injury and other signs, the chameleon was sleeping, which is abnormal for chameleons during the day.

She took it to her vet and called in the RSPCA.

After treatment including antibiotics, the chameleon is improving, said Mr Brown.

Interviewed by the RSPCA, Eaton said he hadn't noticed any deterioration in its condition.

Ms Mellor said Eaton had been at the shop since 1999 and this was the only incident of its kind.

She claimed the pet owner had not left her phone number.

Since the incident, Eaton had taken RSPCA advice and introduced policies in place in the shop for himself and his staff.