Snakes Alive! Doncaster high street store is full of reptiles and tarantulas
You'll not find any cute kittens in Lucan Handley's Doncaster pet shop. Â
And neither will you be able to pick up a puppy.
But if you like huge spidersÂ or snakes and lizards, then he's your man.
Lucan, from Dunscroft, was an amateur breeder of snakes and lizards for years. His home has grounds large enough for him to raise animals of all sorts, and has even been inspected by the council to check that they are well looked-after.
He combined his love of pets with his job as a telecommunications engineer.
But three years ago, he started a sideline, Animal Encounters. It gave him a chance to take some of cherished creatures out for people to see, at private events or educational groups.
Eventually, he gave up his telecommunications job, because the Animal Encounters work allowed him more time at home, to help look after his young autistic son.
And as the popularity of his service grew, he decided it was time to open a shop.
Now, that dream has come true, with his store, Reptile Rendezvous, one of the latest to open in the town centre, at the Waterdale Centre.
It's not just a shop that sells animals. Lucan is also using it as a base for people to come in and meet some of the animals he looks after close up.
He said: 'We started with snakes and lizards, and then moved on to tarantulas.Then from there we moved to exotic mammals like raccoons and meerkats.
'Meerkats are the most popular when it comes to visits. We can do meerkats, skunks and armadillos. Skunks are more popular than you would imagine. They don't spray as along as they're not frightened, so they are not smelly, despite their traditional reputation.
'We had the animals out for the grand opening, earlier this month, and the meerkats were the star attraction.
'It has been brilliant since we opened and we've gone from strength to strength.
'We've started on a modest budget and it's working out well.'
Although the meerkats are brought to the shop for meeting the meerkat events, you can't buy them in the store.
But you can buy reptiles, snakes, spiders, scorpion, millipedes, snails and some exotic rodents including unusual species of gerbil.
Snakes are proving popular in terms of sales. But also selling well are pet supplies, such as animal food.
None of the species are on the dangerous wild animals list.Â
The snakes range from corn snakes and king snakes to royal pythons. The lizards include bearded dragons chameleons, geckos and tortoises.
Lucan runs the shop with wife Laura as a joint venture, and they have had customers from as far afield as Lancashire and Essex since they set up.
Their son, Jacob, has autism, and finds the animals help him. He likes to stroke the meerkats, and finds having a 10ft burmese python called Tiny on his knee helps him relax.
But there is no typical customer.
'We get pensioners coming in to buy food for their tarantulas, ' said Lucan. 'We also get a lot of wishful children coming in wishing they could have a pet snake.
'It's been a dream of mine since I was a child to own a pet shop.
'I also like the idea of promoting responsible pet ownership, and I have turned people down in the past who have wanted to buy things. An example was someone whoÂ came in wanting to buy a tarantula to throw at their friend.
'Part of what we do, through Animal Encounters, is educate people about the animals and how to care for them.'
Some of the animals the businessÂ have showbiz agents.
There is a market for hiring animals in the entertainment industry, and in the past Animal Encounters has provided animals for short films, picture shoots for fashion magazines, and for pop videos. Doncaster band Bang Bang Romeo used snakes from Animal Encounters, as did another local group, Wolfman Fury.
~We are running a series of features to showcase the variety of shops in Doncaster town centre as part of our Love Your High Street campaign.