Father of Three, Eric LeBlanc is a reptile enthusiast who owns hundreds of lizards and snakes – and allows his three young children to play with them, including a 19ft reticulated python. He recently had to move dozens of the apex predators into his home when a fire at his reptile store killed some of his animals and injured many more.
Despite the danger the animals could pose he has no problem allowing his three children Erica, three, Larry, four, and Katie, seven, to handle them. 'The worst bite my daughter got was from a bearded dragon,' said LeBlanc.
'My son got bit in the forehead one time by a ball python when he was around two-years-old. 'He opened one of the tubs after me and basically startled it - the python jumped up and bit him on the nose.' LeBlanc, 43, is in the process of repairing his decimated reptile store and is trying to raise his three children to have no fear of reptiles - particularly while many of them are living with him.
He added: 'They make great pets. They don't have fleas and are low maintenance so you don't have to take them to a vet regularly like a dog or a cat. 'At first they may try and strike at you but once they know you don't mean them any harm they're really nice.'
LeBlanc also owned a 7ft 2in crocodile monitor lizard called Jellybean, which was allowed to play with his children - unfortunately he died in the fire last month. LeBlanc said: 'The fire was the worst tragedy of my life. If it were just stock or merchandise that was burned I could live with that but the fact that it's living animals makes it hard.
'Lots of them were my kids' pets - every animal that burned had a name.' Jellybean initially survived the fire but died as a result of his injuries. 'We got him medical attention and tried our best but he didn't make it,' added LeBlanc. 'He had a full tank of oxygen but the scales on his face came away - it looks like he made it to the worst part of the fire.
'In total we lost hundreds of lizards, geckos and snakes - it's hard to deal with. 'The family is now pulling together, with the help of their community in northern California, to get the Reptile Outlet up and running again.
And despite the heartache from the fire and the bites he and his children have suffered in the past, LeBlanc is steadfast in his commitment and love of huge reptiles. 'It is my passion and it's my job,' he added.
'We're going to do everything we can to get the shop up and running again.'