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New reptile rescue group in Derry experiencing an increase in unwanted pets

Volunteers link rise in abandoned animals to the easing of lockdown restrictions

Dennis Dunn

Dennis Dunn with his daughter Ellie with some of the reptiles they have rescued.

A Derry man has set up a group to rescue and rehome a growing number of unwanted pet reptiles.

Dennis Dunn established ReptiRescueNI earlier this year after noticing through his work at the Pets at Home branch in the city an increase in the number of people wanting to give up their pets.

Dennis and four other volunteers now provide a temporary home for the animals before finding them a new home.

To date, the group has helped find new homes for around 50 animals, including snakes, lizards and snails.

Dennis, who is originally from England but who now lives in the Waterside area of Derry with his wife and two young children, said he always had a passion for animals.

“I just love reptiles,” he said.

“I used to keep them when I was younger and it is great to be helping to care for these beautiful creatures again.”

Dennis said the number of people in Ireland who have reptiles as pets is 'huge'.

“I suppose they are not the kind of pets you see people out walking in the street with but there is a massive reptile-keeping community in Ireland and they have been very supportive of our work.”

At present, Dennis has nine reptiles, including a Boa Constrictor snake, at his home.

The other four volunteers who help him also have animals in their homes.

“Since we set up the group, it has been very busy.

“Through my work at Pets at Home I noticed a lot of people coming in to ask advice on what they could do with their reptile.

“Often, it was the same story of someone having bought a snake or a reptile as a pet for their child and the child had then lost interest in it.

“There was nowhere really that these people could go to in order to try and get the animal rehomed.

“That's when I decided to set up something myself.”

As a result, ReptiRescueNI will now take animals off people and use their contacts within the reptile-keeping community to get them rehomed.

“As we are completely self-funded, we ask people who are rehoming the animals to make a donation to help us continue with this work.”

The local man said he expected to be busy as the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased.

“It seems that a lot of people bought pets, including reptiles, during the lockdown because they found themselves having more time on their hands.

“However, what happens when they go back to work and get back into their old routines?

“And will they still have the time needed to properly look after their animals?

“That's why we think we could see an increase in unwanted pets in the coming months.”

Anyone who would like to contact or support ReptiRescueNI can get in touch with the group through its Facebook page.

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