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Coronavirus: Creatures from college's animal house move in with students


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Leanne Reid with son Korey and two of their furry friends

Leanne Reid with son Korey and two of their furry friends

Leanne Reid with son Korey and two of their furry friends

Lockdown with rats, mice or any kind of exotic creature certainly is not for everyone.

But some students at the South Eastern Regional College's (SERC) animal management course have taken on some rather unusual friends into their homes.

The animals usually live in the college's Animal House but since lockdown they have had to move out and in with the students.

Julie Armstrong, animal management lecturer, said: "We have a whole array of creatures who live in SERC's Animal House, giving our students hands on handling, observation and care access to everything from mice and rats to Guinea pigs, geckos and a tortoise."

She continued: "When we put the call out to see who could take on responsibility for looking after the animals, we were delighted with the enthusiasm and support from the students and indeed one of our animal technicians who took on our 14 resident mice."

Mother-of-four Leanne Reid from Newtownards, whose children are aged from three to 14, is a first year student on the course. Her house is no stranger to animals - but now she has taken on even more.

Leanne said: "My house is a bit of a menagerie in any case as we already have four rats, two dogs and a cat, so taking on the three College rats, Butch, Marcellus and Joules, didn't seem like too big an ask.

"We are all passionate about animals and the kids love having the new rats who have settled in well.

"I know some people are probably cringing about the thought of having any kind of rat as a pet but I have kept them since I was in high school - I used to take them to the local shop with me on my shoulder.

"They are really like having a wee dog and have their own little personalities and once they are out of their cages they settle down and are well behaved. They do like to be out and about."

She added: "As a mature student returning to education, I have been really thankful for all the support and encouragement that the lecturing and support staff have given me, so I have been delighted to be able to help out by offering to look after the animals in this way."

Fellow student Nathan McKee, from Bangor, has taken on a couple of African Clawed Frogs.

While Robyn Woods, also from Bangor, has brought home a couple of crested geckos and Norman the tortoise.

She said: "I feel privileged to have been able to take them in and provide them with a warm holiday home while supporting the college during lockdown."

Hermione and Jason, the college Guinea pigs, have taken up residence with Naomi Perry from Newtownards.

Meanwhile Laura Leabody, animal technician at SERC, has taken on 14 mice.

She said: "Having the mice home during this challenging time has provided excellent quality time in terms of handling and behavioural observations.

"New behavioural records have now been completed based on nocturnal activity which is something I wasn't able to do before and I am looking forward to sharing these with the students during the online lessons."

Belfast Telegraph