If there is something strange in your neighbourhood that slithers on the ground or crawls on eight legs, who are you going to call? How about Hamilton Ball Pythons.
What started five years ago as two friends’ plan to breed and create new python colourings, known as morphs, five years ago has turned into not only a business, but a rescue organization for snakes, reptiles and even a few arachnids.
Hamilton resident and owner of Hamilton Ball Pythons, Gary Sinfield, admits that at first it was just him and his friend trying to create different morphs and genetics. However, as word got out about their knowledge of snakes, people started coming to them for help when they could no longer care for their scaly friends.
“It started out with just ball pythons and corn snakes and such and we basically said, ‘OK, no problem,’” Sinfield said. “From that point we were making sure that those extra snakes that were given to us, or surrendered to us, were put into proper housing and given health care before being kept by us as a showpiece for educational shows or sent out to a good home.”
However, it was not a snake that introduced Sinfield to the world of rescuing reptiles, but a bearded dragon.
“When I first got my first bearded dragon it was actually given to me at an older age and I became incredibly attached to him as a lizard which is uncommon for me because I usually get more attached to snakes,” Sinfield said. “It was really harsh when he died after getting really sick. At that point we weren’t really sure what could have caused him to get sick. It was shortly after that that we started getting more and more involved in the rescue portion and learning how to help them.”
From that one sick reptile, Sinfield’s breeding business took a new turn. No longer were they just caring for reptiles that had been given to them but they were also educating the public, which, according to Josh Mersereau, a former volunteer, is one of the most important goals.
“It gives hope for pets that are quite often overlooked by the general public,” Mersereau said. “Hamilton Ball Pythons works hard to educate people at expos and conventions before they decide on taking on an exotic pet.”
Hamilton Ball Pythons also began to do one-hour educational shows at schools and at conventions across southern Ontario. At conventions, such as Anime North in Toronto, con-goers are encouraged to come up and get pictures taken with the reptiles as not only an educational experience but also as a way to get over their fears.
“People who have had fears in the past get to expand and actually grow into a different idea of what the reptiles are really actually like and they get a better understanding about what the reptile is like,” Sinfield said. “They can actually get a better understanding that these are not the slimey, scaly creatures that they have been taught to think are evil.”
Convention-goers and students are not the only ones who have gotten over fears thanks to the Hamilton Ball Pythons. Sinfield admits that through the organization he has actually gotten over one of his own fears.
“Believe it or not I used to have an extreme phobia of arachnids, of spiders,” Sinfield said. “And it wasn’t until my wife a few of my friends and my two-year-old daughter helped me overcome that fear that we have been getting more involved with arachnids as well.”
A major issue encountered by the rescue centre, other than general fear, is that many people who want to own a reptile have no idea what they are getting themselves into.
“About 50 per cent of the people who want to deal with reptiles have actually put in the extra effort to research and learn and study them,” Sinfield said. “The other 50 per cent are just sitting there thinking that looks cool and they have no concept of either the size or how much it takes to keep care of them.”
Ultimately, Sinfield and everyone else at Hamilton Ball Pythons just want people to understand what they are getting into when they purchase a reptile and that there are people around who will help them.
“As far as a rescue we don’t want to have to take the reptile away but we want to see them get the care and help that’s needed.
“If they have questions to ask or they want to get a better understanding of what’s going on or if they have any problems … that’s what we are here for. We’re here for the reptiles as well as for the owners.”
For further information on Hamilton Ball Pythons, go to www.hamiltonballpythons.ca.