Drew Desjardins holds Creature and Gomez, two Argentine black and white tegus, in the new home for Mr. Drew and His Animals Too in the Pepperell Mill in Lewiston. A lot of cleaning and painting needs to be done before the animals move in for good, which is planned for early 2018. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — Mr. Drew and His Animals Too is getting a permanent home.
One that’s not in Mr. Drew’s house.
Drew Desjardins, an exotic pet rescuer and rehabilitator, will move his menagerie of lizards, snakes, bugs, spiders and other critters into a 1,000-square-foot space in the Pepperell Mill on the corner of Adams Avenue and Lisbon Street.
He originally wanted to start a children’s natural science museum, but those plans have been pared down for now. The new space will instead become home for the 100-plus species he cares for, as well as an educational center for small groups.
“I can’t take the credit,” he said. “My wife has been looking at places behind my back.”
A former pet store owner, Desjardins has been caring for exotic pets for almost 30 years. He officially formed Mr. Drew and His Animals Too about five years ago to teach kids about animals. His presentations are now sought after by schools, community event organizers and parents looking for birthday party entertainment.
He often gets animals from owners who either can’t or don’t want to care for them.
“You get a pet, whether it be a lizard or a snake, and you don’t want it anymore, pet stores don’t take them back, the shelter won’t take them. So unless you can unload it to a friend or something, the only other option is people saying, ‘Well, I’ll just let it go (into the wild).’ I’m trying to avoid all that,” Desjardins said. “The animal either doesn’t survive or it’s a species that could wreak havoc on Maine’s environment.”
Some animals remain with Desjardins only until he can find new owners for them. Others stay with him for the rest of their lives.
Except for several loaned to schools or staying at his brother’s house, all of Desjardins’ dozens of animals live with him and his family. Snake habitats take up a spare bedroom. Elderly turtles live in aquariums in the upstairs hallway. Lizards sleep in the master bedroom and living room. A snapping turtle has taken up residence in the dining room.
Almost all of the exotic animals will move into the new space. Desjardins’ birds will remain behind.
“In the building there’s also Grace Street Recovery. I’m afraid the birds might be just a little too loud, so we’ll keep the birds here,” he said.
Desjardins hopes to have the space cleaned out and everyone moved in at the beginning of 2018.
He kicked off a fundraiser on Facebook this week to help pay for animal enclosures and rent. As of Thursday, he’d raised more than $1,600.
“This (move) will allow me to expand and definitely take in more, comfortably,” he said. “I was getting to the point here where I was going to have to start turning away people.”