FIVE new animals have joined Sparsholt College’s Exotic Animal Collection after being rescued by the RSPCA.

The raccoons, originally from east Asia, have become a novelty pet in recent years, despite their complex needs.

They were re-homed in the college’s Animal Management Centre in a new enclosure that students had built across six months.

Head of exotics at Sparsholt, Gary Clarke, said: “We are very pleased to provide a new home for these ex-pet raccoon dogs as part of the animal collection we maintain here for teaching and training.

“Our animal management students have grafted for months to prepare the enclosure for them - burying mesh underground, building lots of dens, planting shrubs and grasses, and even making them a pond and roof terrace to enjoy.”

“Already, three students have begun projects on their behaviour, using night cameras to see what goes on after dark. We look forward to discovering more about these wonderful little animals over the coming years.”

Last year, the number of calls to the RSPCA increased by 13 per cent when compared with 2017, with a total of 1,175,193 calls being made to its 24-hour cruelty hotline.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: “We’re so pleased we were able to introduce and integrate these five individuals into a bonded group and it’s wonderful to see them settling in so well at their new home at Sparsholt College.

“In some cases, we believe owners take them on simply because they believe they will be easier to care for than other pets.”