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Council staff receive master class in creepy crawlies

03/04/14

Toolbox talks with a twist were delivered to building repairs staff at Aberdeen City Council's Kittybrewster offices today [Thursday 03 April] in a bid to educate them on the more exotic pets they might encounter during their day-to-day work.

Paul McDonald & Julia Forbes with Rosie the Chilean Rose Tarantula. Representatives from the charity Scottish Exotic Animal Rescue: Creatures Great and Small delivered a series of hands-on presentations featuring live snakes, spiders and insects to expose staff to the animals in a controlled environment.

The talks were delivered by Nick Martin, a trained entomologist from the charity.

They were arranged following recent incidents where Aberdeen City Council trades people carrying out repairs in buildings encountered exotic pets and were not in a position to handle the animals in the appropriate manner.

Aberdeen City Council Housing and Environment Convener Councillor Neil Cooney said: "Our building services staff have a very public-facing role within the Council so must be equipped to handle any situation they are presented with.

"This training demonstrates not only our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of staff but also the welfare of the pets they may encounter in their work, no matter how common.

"We as a Council are always exploring innovative solutions to the training needs of staff and this is just one example of that.

"Today's event has educated staff on the ever-increasing prevalence of exotic animals in the home and exposed them to the habits and rituals of these animals.

"I am in no doubt this training session, albeit unusual, will have been of great benefit to all involved."

Aberdeen City Council Kittybrewster Operations Manager Kiemon Stewart added: "There was an issue about a month ago whereby some of our trades people encountered a loose snake within a property - clearly a scenario they did not expect and something they were not equipped to deal with.

"The sale of exotic animals as pets is on the up and the number of calls to animal charities about abandonment and welfare issues relating to these creatures is also increasing.

"As such, there is an ever-growing probability that Council staff will come into contact with such pets on the job, particularly in residential properties.

"We were delighted that a registered Scottish charity like Creatures Great and Small was able to support our needs and deliver hands-on training in an informative and engaging manner.

"I believe events like this demonstrate not only our determination to identify the specific training needs of our staff but also mitigate against future issues by providing practical and professional advice."

Nick Martin said: "Animal safety awareness training is invaluable for both the animals and the humans that encounter them.

"Contrary to popular belief, most snakes are shy and harmless to humans, but some can be potentially dangerous.

"There is a real need to educate those who may come across them in their workplace in order to keep both them and the animal safe."

Nick added: "The popularity in keeping exotic pets has grown so fast in the past few years and while most people are responsible owners there are those that care little for the animal's welfare or safety.

"It is not uncommon for the charity to get called out to snakes and other exotic pets that have been abandoned by their owners when moving home.

"Reptiles may not be like your normal cute and fluffy pet but they too deserve to be respected and cared for like any other animal."