Edgar Ortega is a reptile guy.
It comes with the territory when you go out of the way to start an organization like the Central Valley Herpetological Society – a group that promotes the safe keeping and handling of a variety of scaled friends.
But Ortega also champions responsible pet ownership. That means dogs and cats and birds and anything else that might bring a family or a household joy.
And he and his growing group have put their money where their mouth is.
On Thursday Ortega dropped off a check at the City of Manteca Animal Shelter for $860. It represents the proceeds of a charity auction that the group held last month to raise money for their awareness efforts and to benefit organizations that they felt best lined up with their ideals.
There weren’t any snakes or lizards on hand or available for adoption, but pet ownership, he said, is pet ownership. The group wants to make sure that the animals that end up there find a place to live where people will give them a second chance is equally as important to the group.
“We support what they do here and one of the things that we try and push to our members and the people in the community is that they should support their local animal shelters,” Ortega said. “Local shelters and local rescues are places that need support.
“Everybody kind of discriminates against us because we’re the reptile people, but we care about all animals – cats and dogs as well.”
According to Animal Services Officer Crystal VanDykhuizen, the donation couldn’t come at a better time. The branch of the police department is currently looking to overhaul some of its cages, build an overhang where the livestock is currently kept to shield them from the elements, install shelves in the room where the food is stored (it now sits on pallets) and kick start an educational campaign in the schools that covers everything from bite prevention to the benefits of adopting from a shelter.
The shelter is funded by the City of Manteca and does have a contract with the City of Lathrop to retrieve, store and adopt out its stray animals, but donations – whether they’re monetary or something specifically geared towards the animals – always help.
“I’ve done one in the past where we talked to students and explain to them that you can’t just run up to a strange dog with your hands out. You have to know how to approach a dog,” VanDykhuizen said. “And I want to talk about a variety of different things that we come across like wildlife and reptiles and things that get kids interested.
“That’s an important part, and that’s where the donations really help.”