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NY Press: Carnival's giveaway iguanas

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Thu Jul 3 08:16:01 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

POST STANDARD (Syracuse, New York) 03 July 08 Carnival's giveaway iguanas no prize - Parents upset about reptiles given to children who won game at Hinsdale Field Days. (Pam Lundborg)
The employees at the Petco store in Mattydale knew what was in the brown paper bag the 14-year-old boy carried into the pet store Saturday. They'd seen a steady stream of them for three days.
It was yet another iguana, held by a child who had no idea how complicated and expensive the animal's care can be.
A handful of Central New York parents got a surprise this past weekend when children came home from the Hinsdale Field Days with iguanas as game prizes from a carnival game.
The bigger surprise was when they went to pet stores and found out it costs $100 to $200 for equipment to care for them, to start with.
Kevin Whalen, a spokesman for Petco, confirmed a "handful" of parents came to the Northern Lights Petco with an iguana from the carnival.
Parents discovered the iguanas require aquariums, heating lamps, fresh vegetables, aquarium furniture and various other contraptions that recreate a tropical environment.
And, they learned that even after they spend hundreds of dollars for iguana gear, the reptile would quickly outgrow the aquarium and need a larger one. Iguanas - now only several inches long - can grow up to 6 feet long and live for 15 years.
"They are complex animals," Whalen said. "They are high maintenance. It's not something you just do on a whim."
Humane Association of Central New York said the iguanas shouldn't be given out as prizes.
"It's shocking they would give that out as a prize," said Phyllis Hogle, who works as a technician for the Humane Association. "They (the iguanas) are probably not going to make it."
Hinsdale Fire Chief Rick Jones, who co-chaired the Field Days, said he saw the iguanas at the carnival but didn't know they were being given away as game prizes. Wheelock Rides, a Syracuse-based amusement ride company, ran the event, he said.
Avery Wheelock, owner of the carnival company, did not return several phone calls requesting an interview.
Some parents who came to the Petco store agreed to buy the equipment; the store agreed to find a home for one boy, Brad Boothe, a 14-year-old Mattydale boy.
Brad, who had attended the carnival with his friends Saturday afternoon, won the iguana by tossing a ball into a hole in a board, said his mother, Patti McNeil-Boothe, an editorial assistant at The Post-Standard.
"Brad loves animals," she said. "He wants to work at the SPCA and he was very gullible to take this animal."
When Brad brought home the reptile, which he named Iggy, he begged his mom to let him keep it. McNeil-Boothe said she didn't want the added responsibility of caring for yet another critter brought home by her son.
Over the years, she said, she's cared for snakes, crickets, crabs, toads, moths, spiders and all sorts of suburban wildlife captured by the teenage boy. McNeil-Boothe doesn't like reptiles, she said, and drew the line at an iguana. The reptiles can carry salmonella, and McNeil-Boothe said she just wouldn't feel comfortable with it in the house.
Brad's mother knew that letting the iguana run free into the woods would mean certain death for the creature. So she told her son she wanted to return it to the carnival. Her son, she said, felt that the carnival workers would not properly care for Iggy and begged her not to go back to the field days. Instead, she said, she went to Petco.
As soon as she walked into Petco, she said, employees knew exactly what was in the bag.
"Don't tell me that's another iguana from field days,"McNeil-Boothe said the Petco employee said.
Seeing her son so upset about having to give up the animal made McNeil-Boothe consider keeping Iggy - until she asked how much the equipment would cost.
"I just don't have the money," she said. "The basic startup kit was $200."
The Petco employee was sympathetic and gently coaxed Brad into signing over adoption papers to the store, McNeil-Boothe said.
By Tuesday, Iggy was adopted, Whalen said. He added that people looking to get rid of an iguana would be better off going through a rescue agency.
Whalen said he's worried that parents who don't want the iguanas may set them loose in the wild. They won't survive, he said. Or, he said, they may not realize how complex their care is and inadvertently kill them.
McNeil-Boothe said her son was hurt by the whole experience and said it was irresponsible for carnival workers to give animals to children without parental consent.
"It was really bad," she said. "It was horrible. He (Brad) is sad and I feel bad."
Carnival's giveaway iguanas no prize


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