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FL Press: Abused reptile now a happy pet

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Mon Jan 1 18:38:29 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL (Florida) 01 January 07 Abused reptile now a happy pet (Amy Sowder)
"Draco" the bearded dragon is lucky.
More than four months ago, the 3-year-old reptile was starving among dozens of other dead or deteriorating snakes and lizards in a Milton trailer.
Santa Rosa County deputies arrested Craig Zoodsma and charged him with animal cruelty. Then The Zoo Northwest Florida rescued Draco and the other malnourished survivors: 33 snakes, two bearded dragons and three turtles. About 35 reptiles were found dead in the trailer.
"We did not think this bearded dragon would make it. He was so thin," said Natalie Akin, zoo visitor services director.
But Draco was the first to recuperate enough to be adopted. Reptile-lover Cody Cowen, 12, of Pensacola Beach woke up Christmas morning to find a thorny new buddy.
Cody spends about an hour a day with Draco, handling him and feeding him his favorite food -- powdered crickets.
"His front legs are still weak. He's had a rough life, but now he's got a beautiful home," Cody said. "These animals need someone to care for them when they're injured."
Most of the other snakes are gaining weight and recuperating, said the zoo's veterinarian technician, Rebecca Waters.
Two baby snakes have died in the meantime.
The other surviving reptiles need The Zoo veterinarian's health clearance before they can be adopted.
"Some of them are doing great, but you never know what's underlying," Waters said.
Zoo officials have queried other zoos and breeders about adopting most of the reptiles. The Zoo plans to keep some as well.
"We want to know and make sure that whoever takes them knows how to handle them," said Diane Norris, The Zoo curator. "We don't want what happened to them to happen again."
A tale of abuse
Craig Zoodsma was sentenced Oct. 31 to time served and five years' probation for multiple counts of animal cruelty.
Zoodsma was arrested and charged in August for neglecting dozens of exotic snakes and lizards in a Milton trailer. After Zoodsma's Aug. 12 arrest, he spent more than two months in the Santa Rosa County Jail.
Animal rescuers said as they approached the trailer, "it smelled like death." About 35 reptiles were found dead in the trailer.
Zoodsma pleaded guilty to 46 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty involving the surviving collection of snakes, lizards, turtles, dogs and cats found malnourished and dehydrated in a trailer behind a business on Avalon Boulevard, where he worked.
Want to help?
To ask how you could help the remaining reptiles, call The Zoo at 932-2229.
Abused reptile now a happy pet


   

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