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Old 07-19-04, 01:32 AM   #56 (permalink)
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Join Date: Mar-2003
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Age: 49
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From the Surrey Leader opinion page (editor's opinion):

Who thought a snake and her eggs could generate such public reaction. However, Curvy the rock python and her doomed offspring did exactly that last week, when their caretaker - Paul Springate of the Rainforest Reptile Refuge - told the media he would have to destroy her 42 eggs, calling it a prime example of why people should not own exotic pets.
The response - primarily from the community of reptile fans and owners - was quick and vociferous.
Letter-writers accused Springate of being irresponsible, the media of being sensational, and the refuge of perpetrating inhumane treatment of the creatures in its care - which number more than 400 involving 66 species.
People argued that a male snake should not have been allowed to live in the same enclosure as Curvy, and hence her eggs would not have been fertilized (she would have laid a clutch anyway).
Springate was chastised for his descriptions of the dangers the snake posed.
And particularly damning were comments that the refuge keeps its animals in unhealthy and overcrowded conditions, while adhering to a no-adoption policy.
Clearly, the publicity Springate wished to bring to the plight of the refuge and its creatures backfired to some degree, although he said he has also received calls of support.
Apparently, there wasn't much thought given to the issue of the snakes co-habitating, nor was it particularly useful for Springate to dramatize the snake's "nasty" nature in the way he did, which raised the ire of reptile lovers.
We accept the criticism that the media did not ask some key questions, nor did it offer other research.
However, that said, the wave of negative reaction that resulted is unfortunate, and not just a little hypocritical.
The Rainforest Reptile Refuge is the only one of its type in the Lower Mainland. Springate took it over from other operators last fall. He has so many creatures in his care that he is trying not to accept any more, although people keep dumping their unwanted pets on his doorstep.
Obviously, there is a huge need for such a shelter, and it confirms beyond any doubt Springate's key point - that far too many people who take on exotic pets don't know how to care for them, or lose interest, to the animal's despair.
Curiously, not one of the critics who e-mailed or called to criticize offered assistance, although several suggested the refuge should rescind its no-adoption policy.
Springate says he is unwilling to put his charges up for adoption, because it potentially puts them at risk of poor care or abandonment yet again.
None of the critics suggested any other alternatives.
We accept and appreciate there is a community of reptile aficionados and owners out there who truly know about and care for their special pets.
However, we also have no doubt that exotic pets represent a level of commitment and knowledge that a significant percentage of first-time owners simply don't possess or pursue, and as a result, the creatures suffer.
That's why recently we strongly recommended in this space that this city - all cities, in fact - adopt bylaws banning the sale, trade and ownership of exotic creatures.
We too would like to see the demise of the Rainforest Reptile Refuge - not because of how it operates, but because it is no longer needed.
G. A. Christian Bilou, MA, B.Sc.
Director, Reptile Rescue Alberta
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