When cold-blooded New Jersey natives lose love for their reptiles, they call on a local to roll through with compassionate snake eyes. Give the man some skin.
Sympathy isn’t something you’d expect from a man who openly talks about getting a full back tattoo of a serpent wrapping itself around a woman with the words “passion” etched into his skin. But William Fetzke’s fervor is deeper than that. And until this imagery is inked, Fetzke will just have to keep himself occupied with some of the 28 reptiles he has spared as part of his reptile rescue outreach program. Dubbed the New Jersey state Reptile Rescue, 29-year-old Fetzke uses the basement of his parent’s Sayreville, NJ, home as base camp to house and care for rescued snakes and lizards. “At one time, there were so many reptiles here that I lost count, buddy,” remembers William Fetzke Sr., 53. “I’m far from being in love with these snakes, but he’s doing the right thing because we have a million people who take care of dogs and cats, but nobody takes care of these reptiles.”
Some of the reptiles have been neglected or abused, while others were forfeited when the owners couldn’t provide adequate care. Fetzke’s first rescue came unexpectedly this past summer while he was running errands in Sayreville with his 14-inch Hog Island Boa. A young man approached him to tell him he had a snake in his parents’ house that he could no longer care for. When Fetzke went to the house, he found the snake inside a box in the basement, without the proper heat, lighting or bedding. The snake also had a severe upper respiratory infection. Fetzke took the snake and rehabilitated it by performing constant swabbing of the mouth, providing a healthy diet and comfortable housing.
Fetzke’s job at an auto salvage yard and gig as a bouncer in a Brooklyn bar help him put up anywhere from $250 to $350 a week to fund the Reptile Rescue. He also receives support from 43-year-old Al Danz, the owner of the Snake Pit, an East Brunswick, NJ, pet store housed inside the Route 18 market. At the Snake Pit, the rescued reptiles are also put up for adoption. Others are placed in homes through popular critter websites, including Craigslist.org, Petfinder.com and Rescuenetwork.org. “I’m involved in this because it gives these reptiles a home rather than flushing them down the commode or throwing it in the sewer,” says Danz. “These reptiles need a place too.”
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