Brittany Carruth founded H.O.P.E. in 2010(age 19), but it was originally under the name Herps of a Feather. It was a spin on herpetology(study of reptiles),and the study of ornithology(study of birds). The main focus was reptiles and birds. In 2014, she renamed the foundation to H.O.P.E., because she had her daughter, Marlee. Brittany had a rare condition while she was pregnant, with less than a 1% survival rate. She renamed it at that time to give hope to herself, the future, and everything. It stands for Herpetology, Ornithology, Preservation, and Education(reptiles, birds, preserving wildlife, and educating the public about it).
“We just want people to gain a respect for animals and understand that these animals aren’t chasing you in the wild. They don’t want to hurt you. They’re more afraid of you than you are of them. It’s kind of about building a mutual respect with the community for the wildlife that we do have left. With all these new buildings and projects going on, we need to learn how to live with wildlife, otherwise we aren’t going to have it. If we don’t start now, future generations won’t be able to experience nature the way that we did growing up.”
What inspired you or led you to your current career/owning your business?
Not only with Marlee and her delivery, but in 2010 when I started out, I was really into monitor lizards. There’s one species specifically-Savannah monitors, that impacted me. Around 99% of that species don’t survive the first year after being imported in the wild. It took me learning the hard way, by starting out wrong. Like every keeper does, I learned along the way and I met some people in the reptile community and they really helped me and taught me pretty much everything I know. When I lost that lizard to a common disease, gout, I decided to take all that knowledge that they taught me and inspire other keepers to keep them properly too. That’s how it really all started.
We have actually taken that rate down from 99% that don’t survive the first year after being imported down to 92% within 8 years.
How long have you lived or worked in Pensacola?
It’ll be 3 years in September. I moved here from Buffalo, New York. It was actually moved here because there are more reptiles in Florida. I figured that it would be a stronger mission in this area vs. up north.
Who is the most interesting person/business owner you’ve met here in Pensacola? Who would you like to see nominated as a Face of Pensacola?
There is actually another organization that is very similar to ours, called Animal Tales. Rachel is one of the women in charge of it. She has been an absolute gem and is always very, very helpful as far as giving us the tips and pointers in our area. Also, the way they do their program is completely different than ours. So, we kind of balance each other out. She’s really inspired me a lot.
What advice would you give a crowd of people? (Or someone starting their own business?)
Don’t give up, no matter how hard it gets. You’ll have ups and downs, along with a ton of hurdles, but as long as your passion is driving you, you’ll make it.
What current/former local business makes you the most nostalgic about (or what is most iconic in) Pensacola?
Honestly, the state parks in this area, not that it’s really a business, but I have never seen anything like it before. Camping and tubing is a blast. The beaches are great too. I used to vacation here before I moved here. The white sand is cool.
I do also love walking down Palafox and seeing all the private owned businesses, they’re fun.
Where do you see yourself (and your career/business) in 5 or 10 years?
I would like to have a Wildlife Conservancy center open, that focuses on reptile wildlife. Not only displaying Florida native wildlife of Florida, but also endangered species and stuff like that, from all over the world. We have a special sub-chapter of the organization where we work with critically endangered species. We breed them, and donate the offspring to different zoological organizations as well as other education facilities, so that they can teach about endangered animals. So, I would like to have that on more of a broad spectrum vs. with what we currently work with.
We work with two different species of spiny tail iguanas, two different species of box turtle, and one species of tortoise now. I would like to bring that more to the front of the organization. Not only are we trying to educate the community, but we’re also trying to save the species.
What is your favorite restaurant in Pensacola? What is your favorite dish there?
It’s the Taste of Jerusalem. I really like Greek and Mediterranean food. So, that one has been very good. My favorite food there is their hummus and Greek pita wraps.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
I would probably want to go to the Riau Islands, off the coast of Indonesia. It’s because there’s a specific little clade of monitor lizards there, within the mangrove monitor, indicus complex, that was recently discovered there. I would love to see that species in the wild. That complex of lizard just fascinates me.
What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theater?
I really don’t have a favorite movie, but I do really like horror movies. I actually worked at a haunted house in Buffalo for ten years. Anything creepy and scary, I’m pretty into.
What is something on your bucket list?
One thing is, I want to open up a food truck or pizzeria down here in Pensacola. One thing being from Buffalo, is I feel like our pizza and wing game is completely different. I actually made a post on a community page to see all of the different pizzerias, because I want to try them all and see if I can find something that’s a close comparison. I have had some really good pizza here, but nothing quite like New York. If I did open up one of my own, I would probably call it “Damn Yankees”.
What is your favorite thing or something unique about Pensacola?
Honestly, the community here is completely different. Being from New York, everyone is really nice here. I actually went up north in March, and I could tell a huge difference. I feel like I’ve gotten Pensacola spoiled now, because everyone is just super chipper and happy.
Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch? Why?
Jeff Corwin. It would be Steve Irwin, but he’s not alive anymore. But Jeff is still going. It would just be cool to sit down with him, with all his experience. He’s been doing this his whole life, since he was a kid. I have so many questions for him. Meeting someone else who has a crazy passion for wildlife like that, it would be amazing. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that forever. It would just be cool to sit down and see what makes him tick.
What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
My favorite music that I listen to more is alternative rock or heavier rock. My favorite band is The Used. Next would probably be Soja, they have this one song called Babylon, that really speaks to me. In fact, sometimes before outreach events, I’ll put it on and jam out to it really quick and it’ll clear my mind. A third could be Nsync.
(Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I was a theater major in college. Being crazy into the animal world, a lot of people don’t know I come from a theater background. I was really into musical theater and I’ve done quite a few of them. I was in Hairspray, Oklahoma, and I was a member of a theater called Ghostlight Theater. We used to do plays every two weeks.
What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Love, family, and warmth.
If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
Mark Wahlberg for sure. It would have to be a comedy.
If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose?
Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
Honestly, probably a coach. Just for a different perspective.
What do you attribute to the success of your organization?
My main success is my volunteers, and the crew of people that I have with me. I mean my organization, I know I’m the face of H.O.P.E., because I’m the founder, but the entire aspect of it is to be a network of all different people. Without that network, we would be nothing. It’s meant to be a program for everybody. In the three years since I brought H.O.P.E. here, I can’t tell you how much it’s changed, not just because of geographical location, but because of the volunteers. In fact, one of my volunteers, James, is the one that came up with the entire Emerald Coast Wildlife Watch program. I really try to work on everyone and everybody’s dreams, not just my own.
Did you have a childhood hero?
Steve Irwin and David Attenborough, as well as Daniel Bennett. Those three really pushed me to who I am today.
Can you tell me a little about your organization?
Our group is essentially a network of reptile enthusiasts. Nobody claims to be an expert, because education is limitless. We all work together and we all have our niches. For example, Alyssa is a constrictor person, I specialize in monitors, tegus, and iguanas. We have a gentleman named Dominic and he’s actually a paleontologist and teaches upstate New York. We have a woman named Ruthy and she’s a veterinary technician and specializes in exotics and parasites. At events, Ruthy will actually have her microscope up and if your animal happens to go to the bathroom, we’ll do a fecal exam right there for you. Then we can advise you on to help your animal and treat them. So, we all kind of bring something different to the table.
The thing about us, is we do a very wide variety of things. We come to schools, fairs, festivals, and even parties. We’re also doing reptile rescue, parrot rescue, and snake relocation. And we also have our wildlife watch program. There’s a lot of different components within the program, we’re not just your neighborhood reptile people. We are, but we still have so much more than that that we’re trying to give to the community. We offer free education programs, whether it’s your 6 year old’s birthday party, or it’s going to a school, it’s all donation based. If you have a rescue situation, or you have an animal in need, we’re also there for that.
We have a new program that was just brought to the table, called Emerald Coast Wildlife Watch, and it’s essentially a neighborhood watch program for local wildlife. So, if you see something even as simple as a green anole in your backyard, we have a number that you can text and let us know what you find. We’re eventually going to be able to create a database of those animals, and see where they are. We can see where certain species are more concentrated. With that information, say we found a species of box turtle was crossing a in a certain area, we can get a petition together to put up a sign for it.
Everything is donation based. Even our programs are free. Our mission is just to offer something to the community.
If you want to learn more about the H.O.P.E. organization, check out their website for all the details you need!
If you want to make a donation to this wonderful organization, click here!
Be sure to check out what our other nominees have to say!