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Reptile rescue guy says he didn't abandon dozens of exotic animals, he had a heart attack

Reptile rescue guy says he didn't abandon dozens of exotic animals, he had a heart attack (Photo: Cristina Flores/ KUTV)

(KUTV)- James Dix, the founder of Utah’s Reptile Rescue service, said he is not guilty of abandoning nearly 60 exotic animals including alligators, snakes and snapping turtles.

Salt Lake County Animal Services and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources took in the animals on Wednesday from Dix’s most recent place of employment in Midvale after his boss called saying he couldn’t care for the animals.

Dix, who had a heart attack six days ago, and is about to undergo quadruple bypass surgery, said from his hospital bed that he left the animals at his boss’ shop after he was forced to leave the last place where he housed them after that building in Magna was sold in December.

He’s been evicted four times and has had difficulties finding permanent housing for the animals because he said no city wants the exotic animals.

DWR has custody of the exotic, prohibited animals like the alligators.

Salt Lake County has custody of most of the animals and says goals is to nurse them back to good health and then adopt them.

Captain Robert Lewis, of Salt Lake County Animal Services, said the animals were in poor shape when he took them in.

“They were dehydrated, malnourished, not doing well,” he said.

Dix said some of the animals were in poor shape when he rescued them and didn’t fare well during the move in the cool temperature of the Midvale shop.

Dix has been rescuing reptiles and other exotic animals in Utah since 1998 when he founded Utah’s Reptile Rescue Service.

He started it because he said shelter in the state would not take exotic animals.

Police would call him if they found snakes during drug raids, and sometimes even animal control officers called on him for advice and training or even to collect exotic animals.

“That’s what’s so upsetting to me. Everyone relies on us but when we need help, nobody wants to help us,” he said.

Captain Lewis agreed that Dix provided a valuable community service for years.

“It was a benefit to have him. Over time he just got overwhelmed."

Lewis said he will continue to investigate and has not determined whether Dix’s actions will amount to a criminal case.

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