DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Rainey Miller takes in any reptile that’s left at her door and finds it a loving home. And she doesn’t earn a cent from it.
Many animals come to Copper’s Friends Bearded Dragon Rescue sick or neglected, and they need your help.
Miller says there are not enough rescues that rehabilitate reptiles. In fact, hers is the only one in the state, and that’s why she won’t turn away any lizard in need.
“A lot of my friends were like, ‘that’s so cool you’re the only one!’” said Miller. “And I’m like, ‘no, that’s not cool at all because now it’s just me.’”
There’s only one place in Illinois you can drop off a sick reptile. No questions asked.
Miller runs it entirely from her own home.
“If you get a dog or a cat that’s been starved to death or mistreated, everybody knows about 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 in, it was like a domino effect,” said Miller. “I kept getting them and getting them and getting them.”
Miller said Copper was probably the fourth one she got and the worst one she had ever seen. He was starving and on the brink of death by the time Miller took him in.
“We did everything to try to save that poor little dragon, and unfortunately he didn’t make it,” said Miller.
Miller says Copper was one of the most special lizards she rescued. The internet agreed.
“He kind of went viral,” said Miller. “He was in multiple different countries and states.”
That’s when Miller’s hobby evolved into an official nonprofit. She quickly started getting calls from across the country, including Florida, Kentucky, New York and Iowa.
“There’s just nobody else around them that can help,” said Miller. “You have to travel hours to find an exotic vet, and they’re very expensive.”
It’s getting expensive for Miller too. Electricity and supply costs are adding up, and so is the number of animals.
“Myrtle the turtle, a bunch of bearded dragons – my older sister takes care of some of the snakes,” said Logan Miller.
Plus, it’s taking an emotional toll on Miller.
“My kids have seen so much death and neglect and animal abuse in this rescue that sometimes it’s like: ‘Am I doing the right thing? Do I want to keep doing this?'” said Rainey Miller. “Because it’s hard.”
But the happy stories keep her going, and getting to share her passion with her family. Just like her mother, Karli Miller says she has always loved reptiles and snakes.
“Reptiles deserve to be loved and cared for just like other animals,” she said.