A HIBERNATING tortoise feared to be missing since October was dug up by its owner’s dog.

Male tortoise Shelley, who is more than ten years old and is part of a pair with fellow tortoise Toby, went missing in early October last year but is believed to have gone into hibernation during the winter months.

Owner Dawn Taylor, 47, came forward after the Echo told how another tortoise believed stolen had been found in the owner’s garden last week.

Now, tortoise owners are being urged by the RSPCA to be aware of the needs and habits of tortoises as domestic pets, including hibernation.

Dawn, who lives in Lodmoor, said she was hopeful her tortoise would turn up so didn’t report the disappearance of Shelley to the police.

She added: “Shelley went missing in October and we searched for him for weeks and weeks. It turns out he was over a foot down in the ground and that particular area was flooded from the rain.

“My daughters and I were enjoying the sunshine in the garden when we noticed my dog Titch was staring at the ground for a good half an hour.

“She then started digging and exposed part of Shelley’s shell; I looked in the hole and couldn’t believe it.

“I dug Shelley out and luckily he was fine, I don’t think he would’ve made it out if my dog didn’t help.

“It’s lucky that Titch didn’t harm Shelley while digging – and even more remarkable that both missing tortoises have been found in similar circumstances in the same week.”

Tortoises as domestic pets can present a challenge, due to their size and dietary habits.

Many species need a decent sized enclosure, preferably outdoors, so are suited to areas with milder climates.

Some species need to hibernate, which can be very stressful on the tortoise and requires special conditions.

Tortoises can also live to over 100 years.

Andy Robbins, senior national RSPCA press officer said the charity always advises anyone who is thinking of getting a pet to do their homework and find out all about that animal’s needs and habits.