When their ten-year-old animal-loving son was diagnosed as asthmatic, Dean and Emma Roots had no choice but to get the family’s furry pets rehoused and think of some hair-free alternatives.
A bearded dragon, two salamanders, a couple of giant millipedes and several snakes later and their house has become a menagerie for the unusual and exotic.
And it’s also given Dean a new business.
The project manager, of Finkell Street, Gringley-on-the-Hill, had his working week cut because of the recession and was looking for something else to keep him busy.
So he turned to the family pets and launched MeetACreature.
He said: “I take a selection of them out to give presentations to school children which link with the national science curriculum. We look at how animals adapt to their natural environments and the differences between reptiles and mammals.”
“All of our pets are used to being handled so the children get to hold them and touch them. Most of them have never been so close to creatures like these and they’re fascinated by them.”
“I usually stay at a school for a whole day and give talks to every class and it’s funny at playtime when the children come running up to me with a ladybird or caterpillar they have found and start asking me about them.”
So enamoured of reptiles and amphibians is Dean now that he even bought one as a silver wedding present for his wife last year.
“I got her an Australian dumpy tree frog which can change colour from turquoise to green and brown.”
Dean gets up at 6.30am each morning to spend half an hour feeding and watering all the creatures, which all have names and live in various vivariums and containers.
He and Emma have two daughters, aged 20 and 17, as well as their son Oliver, now 12, who is a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Gainsborough.
Oliver’s first pet was the bearded dragon who he named by it’s initials BD. It has the run of the house but particularly likes to find hot spots, such as a bowl of pot pourri near a sunny window.
Dean, 49, said: “He eats live locusts and crickets, which we buy from Trim Pets in Trinity. I like sharing the enjoyment of animals and insects from other parts of the world with children.”
“Not only does it give them a new experience, but it also helps them to understand the need to treat animals with care and the importance of protecting natural habitats.”
Dean also has leopard albino geckos, stick insects, hissing coackroaches, a two-year-old leopard tortoise called Speedy, a 28-year-old rescue snake called Crusher and a corn snake
Lucy Owers, a teacher at Gainsborough Nursery School where Dean has done a presentation, said: “We’ve been doing a lot about animal growth and life cycles and it’s a nice opportunity for the children to develop their learning and to see animals they wouldn’t normally encounter.”
Dean dresses in a ranger’s khaki outfit to do his presentations. “It’s very rewarding seeing how much please the children get out of meeting the creatures,” he said.
Dean’s website is www.meetacreature.co.uk.