'Bob the Critter Man' devastated without pets

David Weissman
  • Robert "Bob" Furrer, formerly of Bob's Critters, was cited for 34 counts of animal cruelty.
  • An SPCA officer found neglected animals, including snakes, birds and scorpions inside Furrer's home.
  • Furrer is not allowed to own animals for nearly three years as a result of charges.

Found guilty in December on 34 counts of animal cruelty, Robert "Bob" Furrer can't legally own pets for nearly three years.

Bob Furrer, "The Critter Man," shows a group of children a Gopher Snake during an animal presentation at the 4-H Fair at the 4-H Center in Stoverstown Sunday, August 15, 2010. file photo

As the longtime primary performer for Bob's Critters — which offers educational programs featuring snakes and other critters at schools and camps across York County — Furrer said his animals are his life, and the SPCA, by issuing the citations, "basically took away the rest of my life."

An SPCA officer entered Furrer's Fairview Township home on Feb. 2, 2016, and found numerous dead animals along with live animals suffering from various levels of neglect, according to numerous citations filed in the office of Magisterial District Judge Scott Gross.

The animals listed in citations included: an alligator covered in algae and dirt, nine tarantulas without access to water, a tortoise, a parakeet, a snapping turtle, a bullfrog infested with parasites, seven different types of snakes and three scorpions that died despite veterinary care.

Melissa Smith, York SPCA executive director, said her office was called to the property on the 400 block of Nauvoo Road because Furrer was being evicted. She said the overall conditions of the home were "alarming."

Dead animals: Furrer, 66, admits he's a slob but said that in no way affected the care he provided to his animals.

Regarding the dead animals found in his home, Furrer said he wouldn't always throw his animals out when they died.

"It's hard to explain to dog and cat owners, but I would sometimes keep, say, a lizard or snake I was particularly fond of for a sort of monument," he said.

Furrer said the SPCA made a particularly big deal out of a skeletal bird, named Penny, that he couldn't bring himself to throw away.

'Bob the Critter Man' cited for animal cruelty

Furrer tried to fight the charges in court, he said, but his attorney left him on his own shortly before the trial because he couldn't afford to pay the necessary fees.

"(The SPCA officer) knows absolutely nothing about reptiles," he said. "The judge didn't know anything, either."

Smith said her office brought along Dr. Randon Feinsod and members of his staff at Ani-Care Animal Hospital in Dallastown because they have an expertise in identifying and caring for the unique animals found in the home. Most of the surviving animals were taken in by Ani-Care, she added.

For each of the 34 charges, Furrer is prohibited from owning animals for 30 days. Smith is asking the public to call the SPCA at 717-764-6109 ext. 127 if anyone has knowledge he is not following these orders.

Furrer, who has owned animals for most of his life, said he doesn't know if he'll become a pet owner again after the prohibition ends, but he knows he won't be able to replace the pets that were taken.

He was particularly fond of his Patagonian Conure bird, named Peanut, that had been with him for 17 years.

"I can't ever replace him, ever," Furrer said. "He's like my kid."

Business continues: As for Bob's Critters, Furrer's longtime manager, Mike Buleza, has taken control and renamed the venture Mike's Critters.

Smith said her office has not had direct contact with Buleza, but they have "very strong concerns" regarding the future of his program.

Furrer said he hasn't done animal presentations since being found guilty last December, though he was scheduled to appear at That Fish Place, a Lancaster pet store, as recently this month.

Rick Amour, owner of the store, said he canceled the appearance once he was contacted by York SPCA about the violations. Neither Furrer nor Buleza, who said he schedules all appearances, informed That Fish Place of the citations, Amour said.

Amour added  he was very surprised by the charges because he's had Furrer present at the store before, and his animals always looked healthy.

Buleza said Tuesday that he had not been informed Furrer was found guilty until February, and he has since completely removed him from participation in the program.

Buleza said he would have prevented Furrer from presenting last year if he knew the seriousness of the allegations.

Denied adoption: Jesse Rothacker, president of Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary in Lancaster, disputes Buleza's claim, pointing to a screenshot he was sent of bobscritters.com, taken on March 23, that states Furrer retired but still serves as a consultant.

A screenshot of the Bob's Critters website (now Mike's Critters), taken March 23, stating that Bob Furrer has retired, but will still serve as a consultant.

Buleza reached out to Rothacker in early March about adopting some animals for Bob's Critters. Rothacker, having heard rumors about the animal cruelty charges, asked Buleza to explain what happened, but Buleza declined to give details in their email exchange.

Rothacker did not allow Buleza to adopt from his sanctuary.

"I think Bob has cared a lot about animals throughout his life, and this is a very sad ending for his business," Rothacker wrote in an email. "I think people like ... Bob, who are connected to animal cruelty, should not be allowed to profit from animals and should only volunteer with animals for the rest of their lives.

"If they really want to keep educating, they should do it as volunteers with a slide show, not with live animals and not to make a profit," he added.

The site shows that Mike's Critters has coming appearances scheduled at Parks Hill Elementary School in Hanover (May 5) and Ore Valley Elementary School in York Township (May 12).

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.