THUGS smashed the front windows of a popular exotic animal centre.

The vandals struck at RepTylers in South Road, Brighton, just as the business attempted to regain momentum following a coronavirus crisis-enforced break.

They struck in the early hours of June 19, leaving large cracks spreading across the glass.

Owner Luke Tyler was told the devastating news by his neighbour later that morning.

The 41-year-old said: “I was angry. Not the sort of angry where you are shouting and swearing. It was a frustration because of everything we have already had to endure during lockdown, with a huge financial crisis. It was heartbreaking, actually.

The Argus:

“We still can’t afford to get it fixed. Every day I have to look at this and it’s not good for business. For people to drive by and see the front of the store boarded up and the windows broken. We are not making money right now. It’s quite frightening.”

During the lockdown, Luke and partner Jemima Tyler, with who he founded the business, noticed exotic animal-lovers in Brighton and Hove could not access food for their pets.

So the pair, along with their children Sophia-Rose, nine, and Amaia, six, set up a delivery service to take people and their pets the food they needed.

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Luke admitted the scheme had not been particularly profitable but it allowed people to keep their animals happy and healthy throughout a tumultuous few months.

Off the back of this, the family planned to turn their reptile centre in South Street into a store, selling exotic pet food and supplies.

But then the vandals hit.

Luke said: “We have tried to help the community during this pandemic. Not just people but animals too. But whoever did this could have hurt the animals at our store as well. If they broke the film on the windows then the animals would have baked during the hot weather.

“Whoever has done this has not just caused misery to our family, but also the animals.”

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But help is at hand for the RepTylers team. Kelly Heasman, who Luke had met a couple of times through the business, decided she wanted to help him back on his feet.

She started a GoFundMe page called Reptylers with the aim of raising £1,000 to foot the bill for the repairs.

Luke said: “People have really rallied together. I’ve had people offer to do trade price for the glass and others from a sign company has said they will install a new one for free.

“I even had someone from Newcastle donate £200.

“I’m quite a proud person and think when these things happen you have to deal with it yourself, and I said this when people had the idea of a fundraiser.

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“In normal circumstances I think maybe I would have found a way. But when I told them it wasn’t in my nature they started it themselves.

“They said ‘we truly believe you deserve this and need some help’. So I swallowed my pride and agreed.”

Luke said he had struggled to persuade himself to go into work after the store was targeted but seeing the fundraiser was enough to motivate him to return.

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“The actions of good people overpowered the actions of idiots, it restores your faith in humanity,” he said.

If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, click here>>>

The incident was reported to Sussex Police.

A spokeswoman said: “We received a report of a window being smashed at a business premises in South Road, Brighton, in the early hours of Friday, June 19.

“No viable lines of enquiry were identified and the matter has been filed pending further information.

“Anyone who witnessed any suspicious behaviour in this area at this time should report it online or call 101 quoting 357 of 19/06.”