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The princess and the giant toad

Fairy tales never looked like this.

Six-year-old Mia Ennis from Tallaght cradles Doris in her hands, the giant toad that might just be the biggest in the country.

Mia is no stranger to exotic reptiles and amphibians because her dad Collie is a big fan of the creatures.

But she is wondering if there are any larger specimens than their South American cane toad out there.

It might be a case of beauty and the beast to most observers, but for the Ennis family all of their creatures are a wonder to behold.

Every inch of their back garden, as well as most of their house, is taken up with heated homes and babbling ponds for Collie's own unique collection.

There is everything from giant cockroaches and snails, to snakes, frogs, toads, fish, dragons and geckos.

He has been passionate about exotic creatures for as long as he can remember, and got his first pet at the age of ten.

"It was a fire-bellied newt and I got it in the George's Street Arcade," he remembers.

"And ever since then my interest has just grown," he adds.

And word has spread about Collie's expertise. "A good lot of the exotic creatures I have here now are recession victims," he explains.

"They were brought to me by people who didn't estimate the care they would need, or who had to emigrate," he explains.

"Mia has always loved the animals, and she has no problem handling any of them, she gets stuck right in, but Sean (4) isn't as fond of them so we don't force it on him," says Collie.

He told the Herald that Doris is around five years old now and already weighs more than 1kg, but she will keep growing all through her life.

"Some can live to be twenty," he smiles.

Collie's feeding schedule is a busy one, and he also has isolation areas and breeding tanks to look after as well.

"All the separate boxes and tanks are labelled and I write up records of what they all are and what they are getting," he explains.

Collie does not discourage anyone from having exotic pets, but does advise people to make sure they know what they are getting into before they buy anything.

"It's all about responsible ownership really, just like getting a cat or a dog," he adds.