A rescue organization will be accepting surrendered exotic pets from 12-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Humane Society of Douglas County.
The goal of the nonprofit, Menasha-based J & R Aquatic Animal Rescue, is to find new homes for the animals through a statewide web of rescue organizations.
There is no cost to surrender an animal, and they can come from any zip code. At one surrender event, the group took in pets from Illinois.
“We don’t want there to be any barriers to doing the right thing,” said John Moyles, who runs the rescue with his wife, Rosa.
There will be no on-site adoptions, but all the animals will be available for adoption through various rescue agencies, Moyles said. In addition, he said, “We’ll tell you where the pet went.”
The nonprofit accepts anything from tropical fish and hedgehogs to native wildlife such as foxes and painted turtles. They will also rehome aquatic plants. The only animals the group won’t work with are dogs, cats and farm livestock such as horses, cows and pigs.
Prairie dogs and six specific African rodent species are prohibited as pets in Wisconsin, according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Local ordinances can further restrict what animals can be owned as pets. In addition, no person may possess live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Moyles said his interest in pet rescue lies at the intersection of his degree in natural resources and more than two decades working in the pet industry. He spearheaded a surrender network with the Green Bay Aquarium Society and founded J & R Aquatic Animal Rescue in 2020 in order to hold surrender events throughout the state.
“In a lot of areas, there’s no resources for exotic pets,” Moyles said. “Even where we live, fish can’t be taken to the pound.”
It’s important to surrender exotic pets instead of throwing out or flushing them, he said. A discarded pet would most likely die. If not, it could make its way into the local habitat and become an invasive species.
At a recent event in Stevens Point, someone handed Moyles a 3-foot alligator in a Rubbermaid tote. He was able to keep it at home for 12 hours before handing it off to a reptile rescue.
“We’ll never turn away a person or pet in need,” Moyles said.
Surrendered chickens actually caused more concern for the rescue than the alligator did, because Menasha has an ordinance against owning chickens.
“I can keep an alligator in a bathtub, but not chickens,” Moyles said, so he found a farmer friend to take them.
The rescue shelter, housed in the family’s basement, is currently home to roughly 500 exotic pets. The list includes catfish, hissing cockroaches, a boa constrictor, a reticulated python and a dove, according to a Sept. 27 post on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.
The nonprofit takes anything that comes through the door, but has a strict policy of not adopting any of the rescues. Moyles said they may make an exception for one. The first animal they ever got was a large fish, a frontosa cichlid named Bruce. The couple found a home for the fish, but that family ended up sending him back. The pet, renamed “Boomer” because he came back like a boomerang, is still living with the couple and their 3-year-old daughter.
The humane society is hosting the rescue, but not running it. The event will take place in the conference room, which has a separate entrance.
People planning to attend the surrender event are encouraged to fill out an online form ahead of time through the nonprofit’s website to give Moyles a better idea what he’ll be getting. For those unable to attend, there are other options. Pets can be brought directly to the rescue organization.
“We’ve had people send their animals in the mail,” Moyles said.
Visit the website for more information or to fill out a surrender form.