Exotic pet owners say they are on the verge of a life or death decision after a year of lockdown

Owners of a business supplying exotic pets for children’s parties fear they will have to slaughter some after suffering a financial crisis from the pandemic.

Amanda and Lee Richardson, who run The Party Animals in Leicestershire, said they lost a year of bookings due to the virus.

They said they received limited government support and were forced to live off their son’s disability benefits.

The Desford-based company has skunks, alligators, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, armadillos and cockroaches in its 200-man menagerie. Many come from endangered species.

He also rents animals for movies, and one of his foxes was scheduled to appear in a Hollywood movie that was also delayed.

In a normal year, he would also organize shows and lectures in schools, corporate events, pet therapy, weddings, and face your fear sessions.

To try to find money for rent and animal feed, they started a GoFundMe – which raised more than £ 5,000.

But Ms Richardson said they still weren’t sure about the future of any animals.

She said, “We can’t sell them, we can’t move them elsewhere, so they should be dropped off.

“I have had my raccoon, one of the invasive species, since I was 10 days old. She’s almost five and that would be my worst nightmare.

The company is still receiving bookings for later in the year, and Ms. Richardson said it was still a “viable business”.

But she said she was not eligible for government coronavirus support measures because she was a director of a limited liability company. Instead, she relies on a small amount of her husband’s universal credit as well as her son’s disability benefits to make ends meet.

Ms Richardson said 2020 is expected to be the most successful year yet, but the pandemic has now left them to consider shutting down entirely.

She said, “Last year was going to be our big break.”

Ms Richardson said she received a government grant of £ 10,000 at the beginning of April last year and was subsequently forced to take out a loan of £ 16,000.

The family business also applied for help from the council and another grant was made in February.

However, Ms Richardson said The Party Animals had not been able to pay their £ 1,500 rent bill since last March, so they were in arrears and now face tens of thousands of pounds in debt that they will have trouble repaying.

She said, “It’s just constantly in the back of my mind. I have never been so in debt. “

She was once forced to sell one of her foxes to an animal park to pay some bills, which she described as “heartbreaking”.

She was turned down for council help because the business does not count as a “closed business” and said it had “been a battle” to gain support.

Sarah Pennelli, Strategic Director of Blaby District Council, said: “The government’s directions are very specific and therefore we were not able to award a grant under the closed program.

“However, we reached out to Party Animals in early February to provide information so that we could consider providing a grant under the Alternative Open Program.

“We are still waiting for this information from the owners to be able to award a prize.

“Blaby District Council was not aware that the owners were considering closing the business and the council would be eager to speak further with Ms. Richardson.”

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