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23rd Sep 2009

Ashington Animal Tracks Compare The Meerkat

Ashington's newest residents are attracting a lot of attention thanks to an increase in their popularity following a successful TV advertising campaign.

The residents in this case however aren't human, they are a pair of Meerkats and are being cared for by an enterprising Northumberland business specialising in rare and unusual pets. Meerkats are native to Africa's Kalahari Desert but the new arrivals were carefully bred in captivity like all of the unusual creatures in the newly opened Animal Tracks store on the town's North Seaton Industrial Estate.

Animal Tracks is owned and managed by animal lovers and long term partners Jason Seymour and Helen Edwards from Bedlington. They moved into their new retail premises earlier this year after previously establishing their business within a local garden centre. Their new custom built store is perfect for the well being of the animals which include many unusual species of reptiles, birds, fish and mammals.

The welfare and well being of the animals is paramount for both Helen and Jason and before any pet is sold they first ensure that the buyer is able to look after the animal. If there is any doubt, then the animal is not sold. Helen clarifies this point by explaining, "It's not about the sale, it's about the welfare of the animals. We are not afraid to lose a sale if it means the potential customer comes back to choose their perfect family pet. We have to ensure that once the animal leaves the shop it will be properly looked after and that includes feeding it with the right food and making sure that it lives in the right environment." To ensure this is the case the couple have began a working relationship with local vets Robson and Prescott and established links with zoos all over the world to seek expert advice on some of the more exotic creatures in their care. Regular inspections are also carried out by the RSPCA.

The Meerkats are no exception to the rule and as Helen and Jason have waited over 12 months for the cute pair to be hand reared and ready for sale, the potential buyer will need to prove that they have everything in place to look after them properly including access to live food such as locusts which can be quite costly every week.

Business has been brisk and with support from GO Wansbeck Enterprise coach Karl McCracken the couple have been able to grow the business quickly and efficiently. Karl and his colleagues provide free, confidential and professional advice to local entrepreneurs and offer tailored one-to-one support to individuals who want to start or grow their business. The help given by Karl focused on cash flow, HR policies and other advice relating to the employment of the shop's five staff.

"Jason and Helen really love their business and of course their stock," said Karl. "They have demonstrated that they can grow the business at the same time as making a real difference to the animals both under their care and those that they have re-homed."

Animal Tracks and the Meerkats
Helen, Karl and Jason with the Meerkats