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North Devon exotic animal sanctuary to close

PUBLISHED: 10:40 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:16 08 February 2018

Safe Haven Exotics owner Marc Harris with a chameleon. Picture: Andy Keeble

Safe Haven Exotics owner Marc Harris with a chameleon. Picture: Andy Keeble


A North Devon reptile zoo and re-homing centre has announced its closure.

Romero and Juliet, rescued bearded dragons at Safe Haven Exoitcs Romero and Juliet, rescued bearded dragons at Safe Haven Exoitcs

Safe Haven Exotics announced on Wednesday it would be closing its doors, citing a lack of available funding to keep the centre running.

Owners Marc and Leanne Harris have been running the not-for-profit sanctuary since 2009, and relocated to premises near Bishops Tawton in 2015.

It cares for more than 300 reptiles and amphibians, including snakes, tortoises, iguanas and chameleons.

A statement from Marc and Leanne said: “We have run the centre for 10 years and although there has been some very low points we have enjoyed it immensely.

Safe Haven Exotics owner Marc Harris with bearded dragons Romeo and Juliet Safe Haven Exotics owner Marc Harris with bearded dragons Romeo and Juliet

“We have put our own lives on hold to be able to do the work we do but we don’t regret a minute of it.

“Out of the thousands of animals we have taken in we have found some lovely homes for most of them and along the way we have met some wonderful people and gained some great friends.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to get any major funding from anywhere such as the government and the larger rescue centres who are always sending people our way because they can’t or won’t take them.

“There is a huge need for places like ours but unfortunately the need has been too great for us to be able to handle it on our own anymore without major funding.”

Safe Haven Exotics Safe Haven Exotics

Since opening in North Devon, Safe Haven saw a huge intake of creatures needing rescue, including more than 40 in the first six months. All but four of those animals were taken in from homes in the South West.

Marc and Leanne will be spending the rest of the month trying to find homes for as many of the reptiles as they can. The ones that can’t be rehomed may have to be put to sleep.

“If I had space at home I would take them myself, but unfortunately I can’t,” said Marc, who has been looking after reptiles for 30 years.

“It’s easy to say, but there are so many animals that have touched us.

“The last thing I wanted to do was struggle on and cause the animals to suffer as a result. We just want to say a big thank you to everyone that has supported us and helped raise money over the years.”

In February 2017, the centre said it was unable to take in any more animals because it had reached financial capacity and called for regulation on the ownership of exotic animals.

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