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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Close encounters of a reptile kind

Two-year-old Dominic Woolley loves his pets, especially the African pygmy hedgehogs, the iguana and an 11ft albino python snake!

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SNAKE CHARMER: Reptile Encounters’ Nicola and Tom Woolley with their son Dominic and Eric, an 11-foot albino Burmese python

Dominic, of Harriston Road, Aspatria, lives with his mother Nicola, co-ordinator of the Maryport Schools Extended Partnership, and Tom, a design and technology assistant at Cockermouth School.

The couple come from different backgrounds. Tom never had a pet and always longed for one. Nicola was surrounded by animals of all kinds for as long as she can remember.

When they got together their first pet was a chameleon and their collection has grown from there.

They now have 13 reptiles – snakes and lizards – and the two hedgehogs.

The couple, with Dominic’s help, have formed Reptile Encounters, where they take some of the animals to schools, to parties or any other functions.

As well as giving pleasure, their aim is to educate people about the reptiles and also to warn about the challenges of ownership.

“Some of our snakes have come from people who can no longer keep them. People buy small snakes at reasonable prices and then they grow,” Nicola said.

The Woolleys keep their collection in a heated room in locked cages.

“We are not afraid of our animals but we do respect them,” Tom said.

“We make sure the door is locked so Dominic cannot wander in unaccompanied. He would happily crawl in with Eric, our 11ft python.”

They also ensure that Tom, who does most of the handling, does not work with the snakes when he is alone in the house.

Their prime concern, too, is the safety and happiness of the reptiles themselves.

“We only ever take reptiles out if we know they will be happy being handled and petted. If a snake goes into moult or is not well, we always reserve the right to cancel an appointment,” Nicola said.

The reptiles are their hobby, the Woolleys said. But they also welcome the opportunity to share their knowledge with others.

For more information, visit www.reptile-encounters.co.uk

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