Proceeds from an upcoming fundraiser will allow an Upstate organization to continue helping exotic animals.
Safe Haven and Educational Adventures, Inc. provides a permanent refuge for exotic animals.
The fundraiser, “Beasts and Brews,” will be held at 7pm Friday, July 20 at The Irish Pub, located at 214 N. Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville.
The event will feature food from BBQ competition team Swinem & Dinem.
There will be a raffle during the event.
Attendees will also have a chance to see some of the animals that Safe Haven has rescued firsthand.
“It’s an educational program as well as a fundraiser,” said Nigel Platt, of Safe Haven. “We advise people about some of the pets that ought not to get.”
Platt and Kim Chiswell, Director of Educator for Safe Haven, urge people to think long and hard about the pets they buy.
“We go in and tell people to think twice before you go and buy this snake or whatever,” Platt said. “Is this parrot really the one you want to have? You have to contend with the noise and everything else. Some of them, they might look nice when they’re small but then they grow and get noisy and then ‘Oops, it’s bitten me,’ then that interest kind of wanes.”
“Or they discover that they can’t really spend the time with the animal that they thought there were going to be able to spend with it,” Platt said. “Then they don’t really have a bonded, trusting bird. And that’s when the biting starts … and they draw blood.”
There are many reasons exotic animals come to Safe Haven, from people moving to places where pets are not allowed or it’s impractical to keep them, to removing pets from neglectful or abusive owners to, in some cases, pets actually outliving their owners.
“Some people do learn about what they’re getting into, but then their circumstances change,” Platt said. “But a lot of them, people didn’t realize what they’re getting into.”
Many exotic animals are purchased as an impulse, “without learning all the facts,” Chiswell said.
“How long is it going to live, how big is it going to get, what kind of noise it’s going to make, they don’t learn all the details,” she said.
Then they take their new pet home.
“Then the snake is getting way too big and they don’t realize what an 8-foot snake is really like,” Chiswell said. “Then they’re like, well, we’ll just find it another home. If everybody’s doing that, there’s just not enough homes out there.”
Both Platt and Chiswell had been rescuing animals for years before starting Safe Haven and have worked with zoos in the past. Platt is the former general curator of the Greenville Zoo.
“We both had been taking in animals on our own for various reasons and we recognized there was a need for a refuge,” Chiswell said.
During his time at the zoo, Platt kept a database of all the animals that people offered to the zoo.
“We got offered all sorts of weird and wonderful things,” Platt said. “But of course zoos can’t take these animals in – they don’t have the space for them.”
Zoos also work with endangered animals, not the more common animals that were being offered.
Platt said if there wasn’t a place like Safe Haven, people could just release their exotic pets into the wild, resulting in a situation like the Florida Everglades, which is being overrun by pythons and other snakes released into the wild by their owners, threatening the balance of the ecosystem there.
Safe Haven was established as a 501 c3 in 2007 and Chiswell and Platt incorporated education into their mission from the start.
“To start educating people, otherwise the problem will just keep escalating,” Chiswell said.
There’s one big misconception that Safe Haven tries to get people to overcome and understand.
“People believe that if they hand-raise a wild animal that it’s tame,” Chiswell said. “It’s absolutely not true.”
Male animals, especially when they begin to hit puberty, will begin to challenge their owners.
“That’s when the problems arise,” Platt said.
Platt said he’s not one to stop people from having exotic animals.
“As long as they know what they’re getting into and what they’re doing,” he said.
“I do think there needs to be legislation within city limits,” Platt said.
South Carolina is “one of the most lax states in the United States” when it comes to legislation regarding exotic animals, Platt said.
Some of the animals Safe Haven is currently carrying for include birds, primates, a bobcat and tortoises and a small collection of small mammals.
Platt and Chiswell keep tabs on the current trends in the exotic pet market.
“The latest fad is prairie dogs,” Platt said. “We haven’t been offered any yet, but it’s just a matter of time.”
They work with a lot of local agencies and police forces in the Upstate – recently taking in cobras and rattlesnakes from Greenville County. Platt is fully qualified to handle venomous snakes, and recently transported some to one of the few facilities that milks venomous snakes in the United States. That venom is used to make antivenin and is also used in breast cancer research.
Platt and Chiswell are so interested in animals that they have trouble naming a favorite type of animal.
“I like everything,” Platt said. “Everything has its own intrinsic interest level – and challenges, of course.”
Platt says Safe Haven can take “anything and everything,” except apes and bears.
“There are facilities that can deal with bears far better than we can,” Platt said.
Safe Haven is supported by donations, grants and its educational programs.
They offer programs for all ages, including schools and Scouting groups.
Programs can cover responsible pet ownership, ecosystems, habitats, as well as other topics.
“We offer a big variety,” Chiswell said.
“We pretty much cater to whatever they’re doing,” Platt said.
Safe Haven also offers private tours and birthday parties. For more information on educational program, tours and birthday parties, call 864-246-4425 or visit SafeHavenAnimals.org
In addition to helping the organization financially, you can also help by donating animal food and materials. To find out what items Safe Haven needs, click here.