A tegu lizard shows off its tongue at Baltimore Critter Society's booth at the World of Pets Expo & Educational Experience in January 2023. Photo by Pictures of Us.

Is your ex a pest? Does the thought of them make your skin crawl? Well, the Baltimore Critter Society has a delectable Valentine’s Day proposition for you.

Pay to name a roach, worm, mouse, or rat after the one who broke your heart and watch your former lover’s namesake be fed to rescue animals.

“It’s Valentine’s Day and a lot of people are single around this time. The holidays are hard on a lot of people. Maybe they’ll get a good laugh,” said Brandon Pollock, who runs Baltimore Critter Society with his girlfriend, Christina Odle.

For $1, you can name a roach or superworm to be fed to one of the Baltimore Critter Society’s resident bearded dragons, Nile or savannah monitors, Pac-Man or pixie frogs, tegus, or a variety of snakes. Meanwhile, $5 will get you the naming rights for a frozen and thawed mouse or rat to be fed to one of the other rescue animals – mostly snakes. The feedings will be posted on Facebook or sent to donors directly.

And for those who are squeamish over the sight of animals ingesting their prey, Baltimore Critter Society is also offering fruit and vegetable feedings for rabbits, degus, and chinchillas.

“Some people are offended by rats, mice and bugs being fed to animals, so we’re going to try to make it more convenient for everyone,” Pollock said.

Money and requests can be sent to the group’s Venmo (@BaltimoreCritterSociety) or CashApp ($baltimorecrittersociety). All money raised will support the care of rescue animals, including veterinary bills, food, and other supplies.

For as long as Pollock can remember, cold-blooded creatures have always warmed his heart.

“I’ve always liked reptiles,” he said. “I’ve always had them all my life. My father showed me how to take care of them while I was younger.”

In May 2022, when Odle and Pollock met a slithering friend who was in need of assistance, they were happy to lend a hand.

“It all happened when we went to an expo and someone had a snake that was in bad shape,” Pollock. “We took it and [Baltimore Critter Society] just started from there.”

Baltimore Critter Society is an entirely volunteer-run animal rescue. Pollock and Odle care for many of the animals out of their Glen Burnie home, while a statewide network of volunteers helps foster others.

Odle said many rescue animals come under their care after their owners are no longer able or willing to look after them.

“A lot of people get an animal and find that they can’t take care of it, or they bought it in a pet store and didn’t realize all the work that was going into it, or their kid’s going off to college and the parent doesn’t want to take care of it,” she said. “We get a lot of animals that way. Our goal is to take in that animal, bring it back to health if necessary, and then adopt it out to a good home.”

Pollock added that pet owners often underestimate the work required for these animals or the space needed to accommodate their growing size.

“A lot of people see these cute little reptiles in a store and don’t realize they get four or five feet long. Or they see a beautiful Burmese python and it’s a baby and they don’t realize that thing gets 10 feet long,” he said.

As part of Baltimore Critter Society’s mission of finding hospitable new homes for their rescue animals, they are focused on educating prospective pet owners and making sure the adoption is a mutually good fit.

When people apply to adopt, Baltimore Critter Society requires proof of the animal’s enclosure and asks them questions to gauge their knowledge about the animal they are adopting. The animal rescue also conducts background checks and home visits, provides information on the animal’s care, and maintains contact with the animal’s new family after the adoption process is completed to answer any questions or concerns that arise.

Baltimore Critter Society also requires owners not to breed the animals. And if they change their mind at any point about keeping the pet, they must return the animal to Baltimore Critter Society.

“They can bring it back, no questions asked,” Pollock said.

Pollock and Odle said they cannot offer veterinary advice, but they are always happy to answer questions – whether about feeding, temperature, humidity, or other areas of animal care – for any pet owner, regardless of whether their animal came from Baltimore Critter Society. And for the answers they do not know or cannot answer, they refer out to partners in animal care.

“We’re here for anyone who needs help,” Pollock said. “We are here to go and help out these animals. If anyone has an animal that they want to adopt out instead of letting it loose, give us a call.”

The group also is available to attend birthday parties and other events with their snakes, lizards, or small mammals.

“Who wouldn’t want to have a couple of snakes come to the party?” Pollock said.

“We found that so many people like to hold our animals,” he added. “We like to partake in giving the knowledge to people who don’t understand them.”

Individuals who do not want to partake in the Valentine’s Day namings but still want to support Baltimore Critter Society can donate to help purchase items for rescue animals from the group’s Amazon wishlist.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

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