A dad allows his three young children to play with his 19ft reticulated python and huge lizard collection.
Eric LeBlanc is a reptile enthusiast who owns hundreds of lizards and snakes.
He recently had to move dozens of the predators into his home when a fire at his reptile store killed some of his animals and injured many more.
Despite the danger the animals could pose, he has no problem allowing his three kids, Erica, 3, Larry, 4, and Katie, 7, to handle them.
‘The worst bite my daughter got was from a bearded dragon,’ says Eric. ‘My son got bit in the forehead one time by a ball python when he was around 2 years old. He opened one of the tubs after me and basically startled it – the python jumped up and bit him on the nose.’
Eric, 43, is in the process of repairing his decimated reptile store and is trying to raise his children to have no fear of reptiles – particularly while many of them are living with him.
‘They make great pets. They don’t have fleas and are low maintenance so you don’t have to take them to a vet regularly like a dog or a cat,’ says Eric.
‘I have Shelby, a 7-year-old albino lavender reticulated python – these are some of the biggest snakes in the world.
‘Obviously the bigger the snake the bigger the teeth, so it’s dangerous – but Shelby is very placid. She is over 19ft long and believe me I know what she is capable of.
‘When you hold her you can feel her moving you – she is like one big muscle.
‘When she is playing with the kids she really pulls them. They can really feel the strength of her – you’ve got to have total respect for these animals and that’s what I have.’
Despite having a laidback attitude to his children being around the animals, he insists they are completely safe and would never leave them unsupervised.
‘In this country everybody has an opinion,’ says Eric. ‘Some people think it’s safe for kids to shoot guns. I won’t let my kids shoot guns but I’m comfortable with them being around reptiles – I guess we’re all pretty individual in how we bring our children up.
‘Growing up I was bitten by snakes, dogs and lizards but my biggest accident was when I fell from a tree – anything can happen. Kids will be kids.’
Erica, Larry and Katie appear to love their unconventional upbringing and have no fear of their pet reptiles.
‘I like snakes because they can be kind and gentle with you,’ says Katie. ‘They are nice and they don’t really try to turn around and strike at you. You have to start timid with them and hold it free.
‘You need to be relaxed and know that it’s not going to hurt you. At first they may try and strike at you but once they know you don’t mean them any harm, they’re really nice.’