While walking the dogs yesterday I saw this little poster, and I thought ‘Maybe I’ll pop along to that later … oh, fff … darn it.Â Perhaps not.’
For, as you see, this event took place last weekend, not this one just gone.
The Exotic Pet Refuge is not too many miles from here, and does exactly what you think it does.Â It takes in exotic pets that people no longer want, have room for, can be bothered with, or find entertaining*.Â And there are a stunning number of them.
So what I want to know is this.Â Why do perfectly ordinary people living in perfectly ordinary houses suddenly take it into their heads to buy a jungle cat?Â Or an alligator?Â Or a silver fox, a peacock, a turkey vulture, a giant fruit bat, or any of the other creatures that end up with Pam and her family?Â The pythons, Madagascan hissing cockroaches, turtles, and various exotic birds I can almost understand … but why would anyone consider an unmodified three-bed semi in Leicester (for example) a suitable environment for a wild cat or a giant reptile?Â I have no idea.
But the sad fact is that many owners of three-bed semis in perfectly ordinary towns and villages do think that they can care for an exotic animal.
Perhaps they take them on without too much thought. Perhaps they think that a tiny crocodile is really cute and would be no trouble at all in the family bathroom?Â Perhaps they’re offered one down the pub and feel sorry for it, and think they’re saving it from becoming an illicit handbag a few months down the road?Â But the fact is that having taken on the young croc, they soon find that a) it becomes a bit of a chore finding all that dead meat to feed it, b) it’s an extremely messy eater and can’t be housetrained, and c) it isn’t actually a terribly suitable bath toy for junior. Â And what happens then?
What happens is that they often get offered to zoos and public animal collections, but many are refused due to lack of space or overstocking – and you have to remember that a zoo is a business and not an animal shelter.Â So then what?Â Well, some of the lucky ones will be taken to an Exotic Pet Refuge – of which there are sadly few.Â In fact, I only know of this one.
These pictures were taken a few years ago.Â I had attended one of Pam’s open days, and I asked if I could come back with my camera because I was doing a City & Guilds photography course at the time, and she graciously gave me permission in return for a small donation.Â She had just moved her refuge from an ordinary family house to a smallholding, and was still in the process of building and expanding.Â Being a very small charity, progress was slow, and because all available cash is used for the animals, it wasn’t pretty – it was functional.Â I don’t know what it’s like now, but I imagine it’s similar because Pam is a very down-to-earth lady and almost certainly still not into the window dressing.
Anyway. Please disregard the lack of hanging baskets and fresh paint.
Pam will also take in injured or sick British wildlife and she can work miracles with them.Â I have taken sick hedgehogs, wild birds and injured toads to her (they tend to get run over by lawnmowers, poor things) and she never fails to take them in and care for them.Â She is a wonderful and dedicated lady.
There isn’t much information on the internet about the Exotic Pet Refuge, but this article from the local paper will give you an idea of what it’s all about.Â It’s an old article, but trust me, it’s still facing all the same difficulties, not least of which is a bill of somewhere over Â£45,000 a year for food.
If you’d like to see a picture of Pam with one of her residents, go here.
* And that, dear friends, is a zeugma – whichÂ might sound exotic, but isn’t.