By Mollie LaSalle
WOODVILLE – Kaitlyn Castillo is a woman on a mission.
Castillo Family Farm and Exotic Animal Rescue is her baby. She started the business two years ago at Dam B, and slowly, but surely, the people came.
Fast forward to today, and the business has moved into a new location at 1905 West Bluff in Woodville. Castillo has realized a dream that started when she was a teenager.
Castillo explained “I wanted to be veterinarian growing up, and I realized you could own these animals and get so much closer than being a vet, so I started pursuing my vet tech certification classes online.”
Castillo said she began with wanting a monkey and discovered ring-tailed lemurs. She said she purchased one, and realized “people like to touch these ‘weird’ animals.”
“I would take Nikita (the lemur) with me to town, to Walmart, the fair, family functions and everybody loved Nikita,” she said.
“I was, like, well I could do something with that, and it made people happy, so I started collecting a small collection of animals. People started calling me to surrender animals, and I could take this a step further just having my own collection and being able to rescue the animals people no longer wanted. I started doing this in 2019.”
Her new location didn’t open without some hiccups, but Kaitlyn has done her homework. “We went the USDA route, they came and inspected us and once we got put on the USDA registry, people were able to find us and surrender the more exotic animals to us. At the Dam B location, we only had 600 square feet, here we have 3,000 square feet. All the animals are inside, and it is temperature controlled. Here, the facilities are nicer, easier to sanitize, and storage is better. It’s just better all the way around than it was out at the Dam B location,” she said.
The Woodville City Council recently voted to adopt a pet shop fee and set the amount at $50. Castillo’s fee would be pro-rated, since it’s halfway through the year, at $24.95. “My pet shop fee is paid, health inspector has been paid, USDA inspection is current and approved, and our vet has come in and approved all of the animals. We have a med room for our vet (she is from Crockett). If she has to come and perform surgery, we have the facilities to provide for that, and she is on call 24/7. When she is here, she looks at all 26 species, and if anything seems wrong, she will treat them. She also gives us meds to keep on hand like antibiotics and steroids. We take direction from her over the phone; for example, if an animal comes in with an issue, she walks us through how to treat it.
Since their grand opening on June 10, more people are starting to come in, Castillo said. “With kids out of school for the summer, there’s really not a whole lot to do that’s affordable or nearby. It costs $5.00 to get in and see and pet the animals. It gives the kids something to do that’s fun and educational. We are looking into having more events for the kids, and we may do something like a Grandparents free day, or a Mom free day. Our shop hours during the summer are 9 am-8 pm; our rescue hours are 24/7”.
Castillo posted this on her Facebook page: “Just in case anyone forgets how dedicated I am to my critters, I will go to war for them, we don’t raise quitters. All my animals, from the biggest to the smallest, are my babies, even the ones with attitude problems, (Karen). All the reviews Castillo Family Farm has received have been nothing but positive: “Love the fact that it is not just a business, they actually love the animals they have”; “Very professional and knowledgeable”, “Their love for animals is amazing and caring”, “Highly recommend if you’re looking for a first-class family-owned attraction”.
The day I visited was in Castillo’s words, “their busiest day yet”. While I was there, they took in two sugar gliders who were surrendered. Rylee and Jazmine let me hold and pet some of the animals, something I didn’t expect, as I was there to take pictures. Rylee got out the tiniest baby snake and I ended up holding it, something I really thought I would never do, as I do not like snakes, and there was a tank in the reptile room full of them. Noodle was so small and cute, that I figured, hey, why not? I also petted a coatimundi and some bearded dragons, but I steered clear of Miss Karen’s cage, as she was having a major attitude problems when I was trying to take her picture. Don’t wait on this, it is well worth a visit, and Kaitlyn, Rylee, Jazmine, and the rest of the staff will treat you to an afternoon of fun and excitement, as you get to meet Pongo, Taz and the rest of the critters. Make sure and say hello to Karen while you are there, she is a hoot.