Exotic pets feeling tough economic impact

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 6:39pm

Brett and Lori Matte have a pretty packed house these days, filled with approximately 400 unusual animals. They’ve got everything from snakes and lizards to birds and exotic mammals. They even have a deadly poisonous scorpion.

Brett rattles off a number of the animals that have become part of his extended family. “Lizards with no legs. Wallabys with diabetes and near-blindness issues. Kinkajus. Sugargliders.”

The list goes on and on. Once upon a time, all of the animals in their home were other people’s pets, but now, they belong to Sundown in the South, the Mattes rescue shelter for exotic animals.

“We formed this because people didn’t have anywhere else to go,” explains Brett. That was ten years ago. In the last year, the number of rescue animals has gone up significantly. The couple blames it on the tough economic times.

“What are you going to do? Are you going to feed your children or are you going to feed your pet? You’re going to feed your children,” says Brett.

The couple stays busy picking up unwanted pets and caring for the ones they’ve already got. They started Zoo-Zoom, a mobile animal education program, to help pay the bills. It’s the only form of income they’ve got.

“Everything we get goes into the animals,” says Brett. “It’s an interesting life.”

While the couple loves what they do, they can’t help but feel the pinch. “With every animal, comes a price tag,” Brett explains. “It’s not that we’re getting another animal for free. It’s that we’ve got another mouth to feed.”

Their animals need expensive care; unusual kinds of food and specialized shelters. One heating light bulb costs up to $80. The Mattes say they spend more than $1,000 on those bulbs alone, and they say they burn out frequently.

“We don’t get cut any breaks,” Brett says. “We get all the same bills as everyone else, except more.”

That’s why they’re asking for some help. “If we could get a 10,000 dollar a year injection into what we’re doing, it’s really going to make things for better for us.”

It’s a push to protect the animals that have become part of their family. “If we’re the victim of the economy, and we say, we can’t do this anymore, really, what’s going to happen to the animals?”

Learn more about Sundown in the South at http://www.sundowninthesouth.com/  


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