HOUSTON—They’re creatures that aren’t native to southeast Texas, but have ended up here as pets. All too often rescue organizations are left with the burden of caring for exotic animals that people can no longer care for.
When it comes to exotic snakes, finding a loving home can be difficult.
On Thursday morning, animal control was called to a home in northwest Houston when a woman found a 4-foot-long python in her shed. It’s unclear if that snake was tossed out by its owner or if it escaped.
High school biology teacher Gina Disteldorf says either possibility is all too common when it comes to exotic reptile.
Disteldorf currently houses some 80 exotic species of snakes, lizards and other critters in her single-story home. The animals have escaped, been abandoned or neglected.
“You see all these people dumping all these animals. People will take them and they’re going to turn around and put them on Craigslist to make money,” explained Disteldorf.
Disteldorf began taking in animals 20 years ago. At that time she was a middle school teacher. She says it started with one parent bringing it an unwanted pet and turned into a rescue operation run out of her house.
Now she teaches 10th grade biology and 12th grade science at Spring Woods High School. She often uses the animals for education.
“Gina’s Heart of Gold Reptile Rescue” is what it’s called, and it’s not a cheap operation to keep up.
“A frog like that you might pay $25 for it at a pet store, and then you’re going to spend $200 on vet bills,” she said, pointing to one of the exotic frogs in her home.
Disteldorf said she’s very cautious of who she adopts to. She has people come to her home so they can see how the animals live.
“I had a 9-foot snake that came in from the SPCA. It took me 13 months to find somebody who I felt comfortable taking it. I had people who told me they’d take it and eat it or make a pair of boots out of it,” she said.
While Disteldorf doesn’t condone the capture or sale of wild animals, she says many of these creatures are misunderstood.
“They’re great first pets for kids, a ball python, they’re so laid back,” she added.