Handling a tarantula or pet lizard is all in a day's work for local veterinarian Brandon Barrett, and something that often occurs at home as he and his family are the proud owners of several exotic animals.
Barrett, with the help of his wife, Tonia, and son, Grayson, are hoping to share their love of all things creepy and crawly by hosting the Exotic Pet Club.
These once a month meetings feature different exotic animals and allow children to get up close and personal with pets they would otherwise be unaware of or frightened to approach. Barrett’s goal is to try to break down the barrier between what is terrifying, and what is considered exotic, exceptional, and distinctive.
In October, the featured animal was lizards. An appearance was made by a bearded dragon, a young alligator, and a large lizard, that brought fear to the hearts of the attendees, or rather, the parents of the attendees.
Instead of the children squirming in their seats, it was often times the parents who were squeamish.
“But the kids loved it,” Barrett said, not at all surprised by the parents’ reactions. “We often get more preoccupied as we get older, (and) some of the parents get nervous. The kids are much less shocked. Kids are enthusiastic and in awe.”
During the meetings, Barrett teaches the children not only how to care for an exotic pet, but also how to react when coming face to face with an animal. His lessons include safety tips so the children know what to do when they see a wild, or non domestic animal.
The Exotic Pet Club never brings in dangerous animals, though.
"Everything is safe," Barrett said. "(The children) never touch things that are dangerous. Nothing is loose. Most are small animals, and a bite risk is beyond harm’s way.”
The club is designed for children to learn, and closely watch the animals while being able to have their questions answered by professionals.
Due to the rising success of the Exotic Pet Club, Barrett plans to split up the club into two different time spans, and even predicts that there will be an offsite location coming soon. The next meeting of the Exotic Pet Club is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Nov. 13. Limited spots are available; to register call the Community Vet Clinic at 634-5851 to sign them up.
“I have planned up to the next six months,” Barrett said. “Next are tarantulas."