September 12, 2012 | Vol. 24 Edition 37

Exotic pets on display at animal shelter

New education room opens to the public

Staff and volunteers have blown the dust off of a rarely used back corner in the Valdez Animal Shelter and created an education room for less common pets, such as a boa constrictor, bearded dragons and ferrets.

Valdez Star photo
The large and lovely Butterfly Koi that once lived in a cramped aquarium in the cat room now resides in a larger tank in the new education room at the Valdez Animal Shelter.

“It’s to educate the community,” Mike Lindquist, the animal control officer for Valdez said. “If they want to get these kinds of animals they can come here and see what it takes.”

An experienced animal control officer, Lindquist said the point of the room is to help people make educated decisions before they buy that cute little iguana at the pet store in Anchorage.

“This is what the teeny iguana turns into,” he said, referring to the large female iguana housed in the room, which inhabits a custom-made cage designed to house her until she reaches her full-grown size, which can exceed six feet in length.

While Lindquist seems to have a special affinity for the iguana, he says he enjoys all the pets in the room.

“I like the beardies too,” he said, referring to the pair of Bearded Dragons on display. “I like them all.”

The room also features a small boa constrictor and a playful pair of ferrets. The resident Koi, a large type of goldfish that would normally live in a pond, has also moved into the education room.

The boa, koi and iguana are perfect examples of pets people should learn about before they decide to keep them. These animals are often sold as babies in pet stores, sometimes at only a few inches long. Unfortunately, consumers are not always warned of the size their new pets can grow to - sometimes very quickly. Educational materials for the pets on display are also available or coming soon.

The room is also a nice place to hang out if you like animals, Lindquist said, noting Valdez is full of cats, dogs and spectacular wildlife, but no formal zoos or pet stores exist.

“If they (the public) just want to hang out with the animals, they can,” Lindquist said.

The education room has been a work in progress for several months, with paintings of the display animal’s natural habitats on the walls. The outdoor scenes were painted by Krystal Banks and Laura Robertson. A volunteer built the iguana display.

“It’s taken a few months,” he said, “All the painting, the cage building.”

And acquiring the animals, which are all rescues from other organizations outside Valdez, except for the koi. The koi was surrendered as a pet to the shelter years ago according to former ACO, Shana Anderson.

The room is open daily, except Mondays, during regular shelter operating hours.

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