How Bear Cats Grew Scales: The Cool Critter Outreach Program

By Sean Shaffar

Earlier today, the 22nd of April, the narrow hallway connecting the entrance of the Jones building was made thinner by the presence of a 9 year old tortoise, accompanied by a Chinchilla, a Red-trailed boa constrictor and even an Asian Forest Scorpion. The surprise event, in honor of UC Clermont’s Earth Day celebration, was coordinated by Cool Critters Outreach – a 9 year old organization headed by the events host, Brian Gill.

Cool Critters Outreach, which takes animals rare to the area on exposes around Ohio, was started as a hobby by the owner. “I would take animals like this to my kids’ kindergarten and pre-school show-and-tells, the thing just grew from there,” said Gill.

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Full-time since 2009, CCO has surprisingly optimistic projections and ambitions; currently, CCO is looking for land to purchase which will house a facility to grant their animals more latitude in habitation. They currently all live “at the home,” a blunt description that illustrates the altruistically simple nature of the organization. CCO sports a growing amount of fame and exposure, with roughly 400 shows per year (ca 2014).

The rapid growth illustrated is coveted by businesses and organizations world-wide. The x-factor for CCO seems to be rooted in the simplistic ethos attached to the chivalrous endeavor of housing exotic animals that were previously “owned” but since released from their original homes.

The tortoise on display, a 9 year old with a projected weight of 200 pounds, was let go from the original owners for its lack of hibernation. Following through with the dedication of housing an exotic animal seemed a feat too taxing, and the tortoise was soon to be released from its home.

Enter Brian and his organization, and the reptile now knows a home as hospitable as one can be (spare its natural habitat).

Upon interview, a surprisingly endearing revelation was made – the arrival on UC Clermont’s doorstep was neither a gimmick nor a PR stunt with ulterior motives; Brian and his staff simply love their animals and recognize the demand for social awareness regarding their well-being.

A passerby and staff-member mentioned the bankrupt state of morality that would lead someone to abandon an exotic animal at a distance of ungodly proportions from its native home: “They should just be left to their own habitat.” Her distaste at the animals’ unnatural habitat was guided solely at those whom originally displaced the reptile.

With a sincere sense of regret at the state of affairs, Brian concurred, agreeing with a distraught sobriety concerning the animals.

Despite belonging far from Southwest Ohio, the animals and their counterparts enjoy a standard of living second to none given the alternatives.

Registered with both the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Better Business Bureau, CCO can be reached via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or email, and more information can be found at their website,