The Ballymena man behind ‘Jungle World’ - the exotic pet shop in Linenhall Street in the town - has pledged to get his animals back after they were removed due to his bankruptcy.
A number of exotic animals which were previously on display at the pet shop were taken away after the owner, Richard Potter, was declared bankrupt.
The animals - which included the likes of alligators, crocodiles and primates - were to be anaesthetised and boxed up to be transported to a new location following the bankruptcy ruling.
Part of that operation was due to continue this afternoon (Friday) and Mr. Potter said he would be ‘on the scene’ to ensure that the creatures were not subjected to undue stress.
He was adamant that he would be challenging the bankruptcy through the courts with the ultimate aim of getting back his animals and his business.
“This hand-over of animals to an organisation based in the Republic was totally uncalled for,” said Mr. Potter. “Family members were ready to step in and run this business with all the required documentation and expertise but now the animals are being taken away.
“Some of them are, in my opinion, distressed, I would be particularly worried about a heavily pregnant spider-monkey.”
Mr Potter had been trading from the Linenhall Street premises and made the headlines a number of times following incidents at the store.
Several years ago he was taken to court by Ballymena Borough Council after a local woman had two of her fingers bitten off by an animal in the store.
In 2010, Mr Potter was convicted of four counts of trading in endangered species after he was arrested by police during an undercover sting while trying to sell four lemurs in a Banbridge car park in 2010. He was fined £400, but said it was as a result of a missing microchip.
Two years ago ‘Rab the raccoon’ made his escape during building work on an enclosure at the building and was eventually recaptured three months later in Ballycastle.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said its animal welfare officials were monitoring the welfare of the beasts.
“Should there be any doubt regarding the ongoing welfare of the animals, enforcement action will be undertaken as required,” a spokesman added.
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said its NI Environment Agency (NIEA) has been in daily contact with the Insolvency Service and its appointed agents since Mr Potter’s insolvency.
“NIEA along with colleagues from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Animal Welfare team have been advising the Insolvency Service and their agents to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare during this period of transition,” the spokesperson added.
“All appropriate Government agencies have been advising on the required paperwork to ensure that the animals are re-homed to suitably skilled persons as soon as possible.
“Over the period of the closure of this business, Insolvency Service and their agents have ensured that the welfare needs of the animals have been met. This included the assessment of an experienced veterinary surgeon, the volunteer services of Mr Potter, and finally the contracting of this care to experienced professionals.”
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Insolvency Service said vets had been in attendance on a number of occasions to supervise the care of the animals, and that central and local government and non-governmental agencies have also been on site and have inspected the animals.
“All the bodies in question are content that there is appropriate welfare in place for these animals,” a spokesperson said.
“To date the Insolvency Service has not received any application from Richard Potter to have his bankruptcy annulled or rescinded. The administration of this estate continues in the same way that it would for any other estate.”