Durham reptile rescue sees rise in surrenders, dumped pets

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — On the lower-level of a Durham home is a room lined with reptile enclosures. The room is home to BeWild, a nonprofit rescue for displaced reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

The organization has taken in 400 animals since 2018. It has seen an uptick in surrender requests this year.

So far this year, they’ve had about 100 animals come into their care. They totaled 179 for all of 2021. Executive director, Nicole D’Avignon says they expect to hit at least 200 by the end of the year. They have a running waitlist of 50 to 60 animals at any given point.

“We really are not able to take in that many animals at a time,” D’Avignon said.

The biggest limitation is space. Many of the animals that come into care have medical issues requiring more long-term care. D’Avignon said they can get up to six requests for surrenders a day.

“Every year we do BeWild, we have more and more surrender requests. I thin as we’re becoming more known, people know about us. They want to give us their animals,” D’Avignon said.

This year in particular, she say they are seeing more animals being dumped. Many of those are non-native species who cannot survive in North Carolina’s environment.

“Those cases are hard on us as we do have to bring them in immediatly becuase they can’t just be kept outdoors. It’s not a good situation for them or the native wildlife,” D’Avignon said.

D’Avignon says every case is different. Owners surrendering may cite lack of time to care for their pet, high cost of veterinary care, or relocating. Often time, D’Avignon said owners underestimate the amount of care required for reptiles or amphibians- often as a result of misinformation from pet store.

“They’ll get home and realize none of this is right,” she said. “People being misguided by where they’re getting the animals from and then they realize it’s a lot bigger commitment than they were expecting.”

Their biggest ask of the public right now is helping them find a commercial space.

“We would love to be able to go more public with the organization. We just don’t have a lot of space right now physically to be able to take in larger animals, aquatics or as many animals as are on our waitlist,” D’Avignon said.

Finding that space has proved to be a challenge.

“A lot of the people who own property, they hear we have reptiles and say ‘Oh, no. Definitely not’- and they refuse to rent us,” she said.

The rescue does not take in venomous animals or anything not found in a regular pet shop.

D’Avignon said donations are always appreciated as she says their vet bills are ‘astronomical’

To donate click here. For help to re-home or adopting form the rescue, click here.

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