While most of us enjoyed Yuletide festive fayre with all the trimmings, Clare Barnard had to cancel Christmas to look after her animals.
Instead of her usual 3-day trip to visit family, the 31-year-old stayed in Market Rasen, spending it with a menagerie of tarantulas, bearded dragons (no, not the mother-in-law), pythons, snakes, chameleons and other weird and wonderful creatures.
Since launching her exotic pet rescue service in August 2013, with support from the Prince’s Trust, the former zookeeper has had to take in more than 75 animals.“It’s absolutely manic and it’s taken over my entire life.” she said.
Christmas Day meant getting up at 6.30am to feed her animals and the only dinner she enjoyed was delivered on a plate from a relative and microwaved. The animals included seven bearded dragons, five corn snakes, seven leopard geckos, a chameleon, a crested gecko, 35 tarantulas, plus scorpions and stick insects.
Clare says exotic pets have become increasingly fashionable, and can easily be bought online, but people don’t understand the commitment needed to care for them properly. Parents have even bought snakes and geckos for young children, but such animals are nocturnal so the children easily get bored with them.
“If you want an animal to bond with you, get a dog. You cannot expect a child to look after these animals. Their needs are so complex, it’s not fair on the child too,” she said.
Though much advice on keeping such pets is online, it can be wrong so Clare’s non-profit business Grace’s Rest gives free advice. She aims to open a sanctuary to the public in her educational quest. “I’m not anti-petkeeping, I’m for keeping pets correctly. These pets are a massive commitment. A £5 corn snake can last 20 years,” she said.