Donors save animal rescue society from pandemic oblivion

Even the spiders struggled during the pandemic, but Surrey’s Urban Safari Rescue Society is ready to receive visitors again.Author of the article:Denise RyanPublishing date:Aug 17, 2020  •   •  2 minute readPamala Combs holding a tarantula. Francis Georgian / PNGArticle contentThe sight of a spider used to send Pamala Combs running from her house. Now the mother of three is one of a core group of dedicated humans that rescue the creepy crawlers — along with assorted reptiles, fish, amphibians, rodents, mammals, avians and insects — at the Urban Safari Rescue in Surrey.The pandemic took more than a spider-bite out of the organization when it had to close to the public during the first phase of the provincial lockdown.“COVID-19 knocked us on our ass,” said Combs. “We were desperate and just two weeks away from closing doors.”But thanks to GoFundMe and the tireless efforts of three dedicated staff, who cared for the creatures and kept the place going, they are slowly opening their doors again to socially distanced groups of visitors.“My youngest, Caitlyn was bug happy,” said Combs, who began visiting the Urban Safari about a decade ago, as a way to confront her fears and encourage her daughter’s curiosity.“My mother is so terrified of bugs, she would go to the neighbours to come and kill a spider,” said Combs, who believes her arachnophobia was a learned response.Now she is just as confident handling a tarantula as her 14-year-old bug-happy daughter.“I got over my fear by exposing myself to them — our fear comes from not understanding the creature,” said Combs.“Urban Safari offers public education and gives people the opportunity to get to know, understand and empathize with these creatures — 90 per cent are surrendered because people didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into, and didn’t properly care for the creatures,” said Combs.The Urban Safari has over 350 animals including a degu, a rodent that looks like a cross between a mouse, rabbit and a tiny kangaroo.“It’s cute until the teeth grow out,” said Combs.Urban Safari also rescues snakes — they get a bump whenever a municipal bylaw changes — sugar gliders (a marsupial that looks like a flying squirrel, but smaller) and the occasional lizard or tarantula that has turned up as an unwanted guest in a shipment of bananas.Two years ago they even got a call from police to investigate a reported alligator sighting in Walnut Grove — it turned out to be a piece of a tire bobbing under the water.If the Urban Safari has room for an animal that a family needs to surrender, they will take it, no questions asked. But they appreciate getting a call first and a donation afterward.The Urban Safari Society is almost fully funded through public donations and receives no direct government funding. Combs estimates the cost for rent, employee salaries, heat and food for the animals comes in at around $13,000 a month.Anyone who wishes to donate to support the Urban Safari Society can do so through
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