A FAMILY have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Echo readers who pledged their support to keep an exotic animal sanctuary open.

The Newby family planned to close the Dangerous Wild Animal Rescue Facility, in Little Wakering, which has rescued hundreds of crocodiles, snakes and exotic birds, after getting a £22,000 electricity bill.

But they are reconsidering after concerned animal lovers donated more than £1,000 and offered to raise funds the day after the Echo revealed the closure.

Iain Newby, who has run the sanctuarywith his wife Lisa and six children from their house for 23 years, said: “I’m overwhelmed.

"I had no idea we had that much support in the local community for the rescue work we do. It’s lovely – any help we can get is phenomenal at the moment.

“If we don’t get help I’ve got to close because it’s not just an animal sanctuary, it’s my family home.

“But if we get continued support, then I’ll run it for another 23 years and save thousands more animals.”

Mr Newby drives all over the country to save abandoned animals and houses them at his family home, in Stuart Close.

But heating and lighting enclosures for exotic reptiles, such as iguanas and pythons, has totted up a huge bill over the past six months.

Joyce Smith, whose African grey parrot Mr Newby cared for, handed over £500 after reading about the charity’s plight.

More than £500 has also been donated via online money transfer service Paypal.

Cartoonist Hannah Shepherd has offered to draw and sell portraits of pets and donate the proceeds to the sanctuary.

Snake handler Dan Hepplewhite will hold interactive reptile shows in aid of the charity.

Hannah Murray has started a internet campaign asking people to donate after posting “selfies”

of themselves with their pets.

Mandy Farrance and Justin Winslade have set up a Facebook page, called “Save Dwarf” to collect ideas to help the charity, which gained more than 300 “likes” on the social media site after the Echo article.

Mr Newby, 47, said: “I’ve never asked for money to help me run this place. We have been self-funded and I’ve not asked for money this time.

“But because of the article there has been quite a number of people who have followed us on Facebook for some time and they have started their own appeals.”

To donate to the charity via online money service Paypal, search for dwarfdonate@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.dwarf.org.uk or call 01702 219472.