Added June 22 2004.

Herpetological and Exotic Animal Sanctuaries

A vital lifeline


The concept of animal sanctuaries is not a new one. In the UK Battersea Dogs' Home has been going for years now, if not decades, and the RSPCA has a network of places around the country where strays or animals who can no longer be cared for by their owners, for whatever reason, can be placed until new owners can be found for them. Actually the picture is somewhat more ambivalent in reality, as some organisations and charities euthanise animals they feel they cannot rehome, and this has been the source of some controversy. Other groups use sanctuaries as a stalking horse to actually promote policies restricting or even ending the ownership of animals.

For this reason we have been quite careful about which sanctuaries we promote on these pages. All of them have been so far well spoken of by herpetological enthusiasts and keepers, or at least have not been badly criticised! While I have some reservations about Beaver WaterWorld's views on the reptile trade, for example, I believe they do provide a vital service. The other thing to note is that, in contrast to those sanctuaries which cater for cats, dogs and small mammals, sanctuaries aimed at reptiles, amphibians and other "exotics", or which have the expertise to care for them, are still fairly thin on the ground.

In an ideal world there would be no need for sanctuaries. Owners of all kinds of pets would be knowledgeable and well-resourced enough to care for their animals and would make competent arrangements for them should they envisage a time when they would no longer be able to look after them. Sadly, this is not the case. Even with the best will in the world, a keeper can fall ill, die or suffer one of life's devastating losses that places him or her in a position where they cannot give proper or sufficient care to their pet or pets. It has to be acknowledged too that some people plunge into pet ownership without taking into consideration the financial, logistical and other demands of keeping animals in or around the home. This applies not just to herpetologists but to animal keepers of all stripes.

The purpose of placing these organisations on here is twofold. Firstly, if you have bitten off more than you can chew or have simply been hit by other problems and are having difficulty looking after your reptiles, amphibians or other exotics adequately, then you can turn to these places for help. They should be able to offer an animal in need a good and competently run home, and eventually to pass it to someone who can give it a permanent dwelling place and the right care. Secondly, if you are used to reptiles and amphibians or other exotics, please consider whether you can give a home to even one of the animals currently living in these shelters. Not all of them are full-sized reticulated pythons or green iguanas: I have seen bearded dragons and even leopard geckos, among the easiest of reptiles, on the "Homes Wanted" lists.

I have made comments only where I know something about the group, so lack of comment in the Notes field should not be misconstrued as disapproval or lack of enthusiasm. If I think a sanctuary or rescue organisation is dubious then it will not be put up here anyway!

Sanctuary Area Notes
Beaver Water World Tatsfield, Kent Founded by Stella Quayle and friends in the late 1970s, and still running with Stella as the curator. Worth your support even if you don't agree with some of Beaver's pronouncements on the pet trade. The sanctuary also doubles as a reptile zoo and also includes a beaver colony and several bird species.
Proteus Reptile Trust Birmingham A respected rescue organisation which in 2003 gave a talk at the first Federation of British Herpetologists conference.  They also run accredited courses. Proteus is not to be confused with the organisation run by Peter Heathcote, who was a founder member but who left.
Reptorirescue Suffolk  
Pogona Reptile Rescue East Anglia  

If you know of or run a sanctuary or rescue organisation and would like to be included on this page, please drop us an E-mail. This list is by no means comprehensive and eventually we hope to expand it to include other countries, particularly in Europe where they seem to be less common than in the US and Canada.

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