Reptile Rescue provides second chances

Reptile Rescue provides second chances

PENDER COUNTY, N.C. — Mike and Nicole Spencer started Fresh Start Rescue in 2013 after Mike was shot in the line of duty while working for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. He quickly realized his career and life as he knew it were over. 


What You Need To Know

  • Fresh Start Reptile Rescue started in 2013 as a fresh start in life for Mike and Nicole Spencer
  • The rescue has worked with over 70 different species of animal
  • They rehabilitate, re-home and foster homeless, unwanted or injured reptiles 


Most people don’t get a second chance at life or an opportunity to start from scratch, but that’s exactly how they saw the aftermath of the shooting – and they chose not to waste any of it. 

“So we said, ‘Lets move out in the middle of nowhere and have a fresh start,’” Mike Spencer said. “And we started with five iguanas, and I put my foot down and said, ‘No more reptiles’ … and now … we have about 100.”

Fresh Start was born out of their own pockets at first, before it became a self-sustaining nonprofit. From the day it opened, it’s required sacrifice from their family.

“People put a huge burden on Nicole,” Mike Spencer said. “She’s lost sleep day after day from as many animals as people have given us when there’s no hope of recovering, and they know that.”

Their lives truly revolve around providing the best environment possible for the reptiles who have ended up in their care after either being abandoned, given up or mistreated by their former owners. 

“Some people will release their animals, we’re never going to stop that completely no matter how much education people have — it’s completely against the law,” Nicole Spencer said. 

They foster, re-home and rehabilitate every animal they possibly can, and while the animals are waiting on their forever home, they serve as Fresh Start ambassadors. One of the Spencers’ passions is to educate others on the care required for these exotic reptiles.

“Our mission is two parts, we want to educate people so that they’re not out there killing the wild snakes just because it’s a snake and it’s scary, and they’re not getting a reptile at a pet store thinking it’s a disposable animal,” Nicole Spencer said. 

All the animals and volunteers who come through their doors rapidly turn into family who hold a special place in their lives. The rescue became a new way to serve for the Spencers as they give back to the community and work to make a safer future for their reptilian friends. 


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