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BC Press: Rescued reptiles need a loving home

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Tue Jul 13 10:15:12 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

VANCOUVER SUN (British Columbia) 09 July 04 Rescued reptiles need a loving home (Darah Hansen)
Val Lofvendahl's life these days is overflowing with things that go bump in the night.
Her family home on Gilbert Road is literally stuffed full of life, from her husband and two children, to the family dog, two snakes, two veiled chameleons, two iguanas, three geckos, 12 bearded dragons and a blue-tongued skink, to be exact.
"Twenty-two reptiles," Lofvendahl said of the latter half of the list, "isn't a whole lot, but I have a small house."
Lofvendahl isn't critter crazy -- just compassionate.
Prior to July of last year, in fact, she only had one reptile -- an iguana given to her by her husband to celebrate their anniversary.
"They're so prehistoric-looking," Lofvendahl said of her fascination with the scaly creatures.
The remaining 21 reptiles, meanwhile, have landed in her lap, so to speak -- given up by owners who no longer have the means or the will to care for their temperamental pets.
"The (reptiles) coming in have, for the most part, been bought for kids," Lofvendahl said Monday, speaking before city council of her new charitable venture, the Reptile Rescue Adoption and Education Society.
"One kid gave up his gecko because he was starting hockey and going into high school. He was bored with it -- and geckos live 20 years," she said.
Lofvendahl was at council to ask for help in establishing a larger, independent reptile centre somewhere in Richmond where she and other volunteers can care for orphaned reptiles.
The centre would also provide educational information for people with exotic pets.
The city passed a bylaw last year forcing pet stores that sell reptiles and other exotic pets to provide proper education to would-be buyers -- including lifespan and dietary needs. However, it was too little, too late, said Lofvendahl.
"The majority of reptiles we have received in the last 11 months are over two years old."
Her own home is too small to take any more reptiles and even donations of cages and aquariums are a problem right now due to space limitations. As well, she said, the current crew is already costing her about $200 a month to feed -- money, with the exception of a $300 donation, that is coming out of her own pocket.
The idea for a Richmond-based refuge struck a chord with council who, only last year, tossed around the idea of completely banning the sale of exotic pets within city limits. That was based on the fact the creatures are difficult to care for, have long lifespans and often end up unwanted and, ultimately, abandoned.
In the end, however, councillors decided such a ban would be too onerous for local pet stores, agreeing instead on the education bylaw.
On Monday, though, some on council felt it was time for the city to wade into the debate again, agreeing to direct city staff to seek avenues of support for some kind of a reptile refuge.
Though money and land were not on the table, staff will look into finding grants for Lofvendahl. As well, the city has agreed to contact existing animal-care societies, such as the SPCA, for potential support.
But not everyone was enthusiastic on getting involved.
"My concern is, I can see this quickly getting out of hand if you don't have a plan," said Coun. Bill McNulty. "What happens in one or two years when this becomes the dumping grounds?"
Lofvendahl assured council her centre -- unlike the Rainforest Reptile Refuge in Surrey -- would be a two-way door; pets coming in for care would also be available for adoption to the right home. Wilder creatures, such as rattlesnakes, could possibly be returned to their natural habitats.
"I really like the idea that you're trying to find homes for them and not just have a big collection of reptiles," commented Coun. Harold Steves.
"I hope not," countered Lofvendahl.
Rescued reptiles need a loving home


   

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