Special needs kids meet exotic animals in Halifax

Families were able to pet and feed a variety of animals at the Halifax Forum


Ewan Marshall offers feed during the Diversity of Living Things at the Halifax Forum.   Sonia Koshy

Chantal Boudreau’s son Etienne got a chance to get close to some exotic animals on Saturday morning, away from the crowds and noise.

For an hour, Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo held a special free session at the Halifax Forum for people with special needs like Etienne, who has autism.

“Etienne loves going out, but the experience is often dampened by his response to crowds. He can get quite anxious and have a meltdown,” said Boudreau. “The responses from people who don’t understand what he’s dealing with just makes things worse.”

This is one of the reasons Boudreau was excited to see her son interacting with the animals.

“I know he was running up to the door to get in here, so it’s great to see him so excited about stuff and he’s been patting some of the animals,” she said.

Etienne Boudreau touches a ferret during the event.   Sonia Koshy

Paul Raymond Goulet, also known as Little Ray, started Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in 2000. It mainly consists of rescued animals.

Goulet started this special needs session in 2011, when someone asked if he had considered the idea of devoting a particular time slot to autistic children.

“I still get chills,” said Goulet. “My staff will often cry when they see kids coming and realize there’s no other way they would have been able to come otherwise.”  

Paul Raymond Goulet tells a story to the audience.   Sonia Koshy

The families saw snakes, ferrets, bunnies and many other animals. Linus the sloth was brought out for few minutes, but no one was allowed to touch him because of animal welfare concerns. Sloths are not accustomed to being held by a large number of people.  

Linus the sloth.   Sonia Koshy

Louise Fraser’s granddaughter Lauren Fraser who has Down syndrome got to pet a large white snake with yellow stripes. Fraser said animals are therapeutic.

“They are so docile and loving and the kids just gravitate to them,”  she said.

Lauren Fraser comes every year to see the animals.   Sonia Koshy

Anyone with a disability or special needs could attend the Diversity of Living Things with their families. The event will continue Sunday for $14.50 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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  1. What a great idea. As Etienne Boudreau’s grandmother I was so excited to hear his family were going to this special event for special kids. I know how therapeutic the company of animals can be to everyone. Hats off to the organisers and may this lead to many more similar events.
    As an animal lover I was also pleased to see the sloth’s welfare was also taken into consideration. Sadly they are being used and abused by the tourism industry as props for selfies.
    Well done all round!

    1. Thank you very much Mary-Anne Boudreau for reading the story, and enjoying it. Keep refreshing your page because we’ve got lots more coming.

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