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Posted by W von Papinešu on December 31, 2002 at 20:36:00:
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK) 30 December 02 Snakes alive - thanks to your funding (Rebecca Baxter)
Generous Chronicle readers have helped an animal charity threatened with closure to raise £56,000 to save the centre.
The Chronicle revealed how the Reptile Trust charity faced bankruptcy following spiralling costs of looking after scores of sick and abandoned creatures.
But the centre's fortunes have been turned around after animal-lovers in the North East donated much-needed cash to help keep it going.
Peter Heathcote, chief executive of the Burnopfield based charity, in Co Durham, said: "We were at serious risk of going bankrupt only eight weeks ago because of the vast number of animals coming through the charity's doors.
"We have to be very grateful to the Chronicle because the only way that people know we need help is through the media."
And the charity was given another boost after Reptile Trust worker, Stuart Dodsworth, was featured in the screening of the BBC's Animal Awards, watched by ten million viewers on Friday.
Mr Dodsworth, 21, made it to the finals in the animal welfare and conservation section after beating off competition from thousands of other nominees.
Mr Dodsworth, who is trained to handle crocodiles and venomous snakes, said: "It was a tremendous honour for me, but at first I thought they were joking when they said I'd been nominated.
"I'm hoping the publicity will do the charity the world of good and that we'll get a bit more money coming in.
"January is our worst time for animals coming in with less money being raised, so hopefully this will help."
The cash-strapped charity has taken in a staggering 500 reptiles in the last 12 months alone.
It has been swamped after taking in dumped Caimans, pythons, red-eared terrapins, and scores of green iguanas.
Staff have also been kept busy over the festive season with floods of calls from people worrying about what to do with their exotic pets.
Mr Heathcote said: "It's bizarre really, we've had lots of phone calls over the last few weeks ranging from problems with relatives not wanting to visit because they don't like snakes to people asking if they can keep reptiles in the shed while they've got guests.
"We've just been trying to advise people as best we can. We don't want owners getting rid of animals simply because a relative has a phobia. A lot of people are afraid of reptiles, but 99 per cent of them are harmless.
"This year has been particularly bad and we're now preparing ourselves for the New Year."