Decatur Reptile Owner Reflects on His Rescue Journey

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – Rainey Miller welcomes any reptile that stays on her doorstep and finds them a loving home. And she doesn’t earn a penny.

Many animals come to Copper’s Friends Bearded Dragon Rescue sick or neglected, and they need your help.

Miller says there aren’t enough rescues that rehabilitate reptiles. In fact, hers is the only one in the state, and that’s why she won’t turn down any lizard in need.

“A lot of my friends were like, ‘It’s so cool you’re the only one!'” Miller said. “And I’m like, ‘no, that’s not cool at all because now it’s just me.'”

There is only one place in Illinois where you can drop off a sick reptile. No questions asked.

Miller runs it entirely from his own home.

“If you have a dog or a cat that has starved to death or been abused, everyone knows it.” said Miller. “If you get a reptile, nobody cares.”

But she cares.

Miller owns Copper’s Friends Bearded Dragon Rescue in Decatur. It all started when a friend got rid of her pet.

“Once I took that one, it was like a domino effect,” Miller said. “I kept getting them and getting them and getting them.”

Miller said Copper was probably the fourth she had and the worst she had ever seen. He was starving and on the verge of death when Miller took him in.

“We did everything we could to try and save this poor little dragon, and sadly he didn’t survive,” Miller said.

Miller says Copper was one of the most special lizards she saved. Internet accepted.

“It went viral,” Miller said. “He was in several different countries and states.”

It was then that Miller’s hobby became an official non-profit organization. She soon began receiving calls from across the country, including Florida, Kentucky, New York, and Iowa.

“There’s just no one else around who can help,” Miller said. “You have to travel for hours to find an exotics vet, and they are very expensive.”

It’s getting expensive for Miller too. Electricity and supply costs add up, as do the number of animals.

“Myrtle the turtle, a group of bearded dragons – my older sister takes care of some of the snakes,” Miller said.

Plus, it has an emotional impact on Miller.

“My kids have seen so much animal death and neglect and abuse in this rescue that sometimes it’s like, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Do I want to keep doing this?’” A Miller said “Because it’s hard.”

But the happy stories push her to continue and share her passion with her family. Miller says she has always loved reptiles and snakes.

“Reptiles deserve to be loved and cared for like other animals,” Miller said.

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