24 yr old woman charges people to see her pet serval bobcat monkeys
Posted on Tue, Feb. 07, 2006
Extreme pet love becomes businessBy SARAH BAHARISTAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITERCOLLEYVILLE – The crowd is big for a Sunday.
Monique de la Fuente immediately apologizes for the chaos. Then she speeds off to take care of an emergency involving the lemurs. Or maybe the monkeys. It’s one of those.
She’s busy, but still tries to greet everyone.
"Have a look around," she tells visitors.
There’s plenty to see. A bobcat. A wallaby. Lemurs. Monkeys. Munchkin cats. Serval cats. Coatimundi. Kinkajous.
Kids, grandparents, young couples walk around, exclaiming over the animals and naming their favorites.
Some people recently read about this little-known place in the newspaper after Jake the Kangaroo briefly escaped and bounced down Texas 26. They wanted a look for themselves.
Others were driving by and happened to see a bright yellow banner. Colby’s Xtreme Pets, it reads. A smaller sign simply says: Monkeys.
It’s not a zoo
The small house off Colleyville Boulevard is white and neat-looking with forest-green shutters.
At the front desk, Monique’s mom and business partner, Martena de la Fuente, is talking on the phone, explaining to folks exactly what this place is.
"No. It’s not a zoo," she says. "Well, kind of."
"It’s an exotic animal exhibit," she explains for what is surely the thousandth time since Colby’s opened.
Admission is $5. If you’re under 13, it’s $3. A room to the side is used for children’s birthday parties, a popular attraction.
One recent visitor simply called this "Colleyville’s best kept secret."
Still, Monique, who is admittedly a little too honest, will be the first one to say it:
"I cannot believe we did this," she says.
The first exotic
Colby came first.
Five years ago, Monique met him while working at an exotic pets store in Colleyville. She was about 19 and had loved animals since she was 2.
Growing up in California and Texas, she asked for a new pet for every birthday, every Christmas, every graduation. She had dogs, cats, guinea pigs, horses, rabbits, sheep, a goat. You name it.
"I just couldn’t say no," her mom says.
For a long time, Martena wondered why her daughter loved animals so completely. She couldn’t live without them. She finally realized that love was part of Monique, woven into strands of DNA since birth.
So when the owner brought Colby, a white-faced capuchin monkey, into the store one day, it surprised no one that Monique fell in love.
But Colby cost a small fortune – though Monique would rather not say how much – and she was young and broke. Without thinking twice, she took out a loan, and convinced her mom to cosign.
One month later, Monique, who had never planned on having children, learned she was pregnant.
Bedridden for much of her pregnancy, Colby stayed constantly by her side.
Once you own one exotic animal, others seem to come along.
Conner the Kinkajou. Calie the Coatimundi. Simon the Spider monkey.
Monique’s daughter, Kadence, grew up with Cameron, the black-capped capuchin monkey. The two spent hours together in a playpen, sharing toys and chatting in their own impossible-to-understand language.
Monique eventually bought a pet store in Colleyville, a community that allows exotic animals. Most cities do not. She sold traditional pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters. Still, the lemurs and monkeys always stole the show. People could play with them for hours.
One day, a woman came in and let a lemur crawl and squirm across her arms, over her shoulders, onto her head.
"This is therapeutic," she told Martena. "You guys should charge for this."
Not a bad idea, Martena thought.
A lot of work
Colby’s Xtreme Pets opened in February 2005. Monique, now 24, handles the animals. Feeds them. Cares for them. Cleans their cages. Martena runs the business side.
"I would make a horrible businessman," Monique says.
Mom nods: "She’s been in debt all her life."
People are starting to hear about Colby’s, and it has gotten busier. Some days are hectic. Chores can become overwhelming.
Nearly two weeks ago, Jake, a 1-year-old kangaroo, slipped out an open back gate and ran for about half a mile before turning back. A startled passerby called 911.
What if something awful had happened? Monique shudders.
Vacations are out of the question. "I really would like to take my daughter to Disney World," she says. "Someday."
The business cannot afford a permanent sign; for now, they rely on the yellow banner. Any time they have a little extra cash, Martena says, they build another enclosure for the animals.
And food costs?
Well, Monique says, thinking: About $1,200 a month. That’s $14,400 a year.
This year, they hope to apply for nonprofit status to ease some of the financial strains.
On the recent Sunday afternoon, Kristy Remo, who lives in Fort Worth, brought her three nieces to play with the lemurs. For safety, people can’t play with the monkeys.
"We loved it," Remo says.
"This is the coolest place. I’m gonna tell everybody."
"Oh, please do," Monique answers, then tells them to come back again.
The next day, a Monday, Colby’s Xtreme Pets is closed. Monique walks out back and sits on a bench. Monkeys play on swings and climb the cages. Colby stares out his large enclosure, sucking his thumb.
"He’s so human," Monique says, "it’s scary."
Soon, as the afternoon winds down, Monique will climb into the monkey cage and sit down. Colby will sit in her lap and reach his long arms out for a hug.
For those few minutes, both will be perfectly content.
Comments from the site:
Sounds like a neat place and with owners that really care about the animals.
· Posted by: Cynthia
I would like to see the place. Can someone give me an address Please?
· Posted by:
These critters are great…too bad they don’t eat those with horrible comments
· Posted by: KangaJim
i went to this place a couple of weeks ago for a birthday party. the smell was horrible,really really bad. out side with some of the animals was really neat,but i wouldnt have a party there and expect my guests to eat in there
· Posted by: linda watson
I would dismiss her lack of understanding on her age. It exemplifies poor judgment to purchase animals that you cannot afford to feed. What happens to them when there is no money for food? Is it really the responsibility of the community to support her pets? The exotic pet trade causes more suffering for big cats than all of the other atrocities combined. Every week we are called upon to rescue another exotic cat, because the sanctuaries are full and there is not enough money to take care of all of the rejects of the pet and entertainment industry. We take in as many as we can, but always have to consider the needs of the animals we have already committed to first. The following is a partial listing of incidents involving captive big cats since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the killing or deaths of 226 big cats, 63 human deaths, more than 217 human maulings, and just since 2003 there have been 67 exotic cat escapes and 352 confiscations. There is no reason to breed exotic animals for lives of confinement and deprivation. To offer this sort of activity only encourages the dim witted to do the same and further support the multi billion dollar trade in exotics. For the cats, Carole Baskin, Founder Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL
· Posted by: Carole Baskin
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 150 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564
Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues: