Around sunset today, May 21, the Rapture is scheduled to begin — at least according to a Christian evangelist named Harold Camping and his followers. When the moment arrives, they say, believers will go to heaven and nonbelievers will endure five months of hell on Earth.
But there's a crucial question for those who are saved: Who'll take care of their loyal pets?
Well, Bart Centre says he'll be there. For $135 (plus $20 for each additional critter; PayPal accepted), he promises to look after your dog or cat or hamster or even llama once you are spirited away to heaven.
Centre started his company, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, two years ago. But business didn't really boom until Harold Camping set the date of the Rapture at May 21, 2011.
"We increased our rates in January, and since that time for the first quarter of this year we're 27 percent up over the first quarter of 2010," Centre tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
Right now Eternal Earth-Bound Pets has contracts with 259 clients — that means roughly $35,000 in contracts — and is set to rescue dogs, cats, a cockatoo and even a horse in Montana in the event of the Rapture.
Centre assures potential clients that his staff will still be on Earth after doomsday by testing employees to confirm that they are Atheists. How does he do that? Well, he just asks them to commit blasphemy.
"They are all very willing to do that. And that confirms that even in the absurdly remote chance that we are wrong and the believers are right, our rescuers are going nowhere."
Potential clients often ask Centre how they can be sure his company will follow through with that promise to take care of their animals in a post-Rapture world.
"What we try to do is reassure our clients that they can trust us, number one," he says. And if that isn't good enough, Centre suggests clients "find a friend who may be a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, an Atheist, a Wiccan, a Catholic, an Episcopal, anyone they think is not going to be Raptured and appoint them as their post-Rapture power of attorney."
And if the Rapture doesn't come? Those clients are out of luck, Centre says: There's no money-back guarantee.
GUY RAZ, host:
So at some point tonight, as many of you have no doubt heard, the Rapture is scheduled to begin. Believers will go to heaven. Non-believers will endure about a five-month period of absolute hell on Earth. But no one was asking a very crucial question: For those who are saved, who's going to take care of their loyal pets?
Well, one man has you covered. His name is Bart Centre. And for a small fee, he promises to look after your dog or cat or hamster, or even llama or potbelly pig, once you are spirited away to heaven.
And Bart Centre joins me from his home in New Hampshire.
Bart, welcome to the program.
Mr. BART CENTRE (Founder, Eternal Earthbound Pets): Guy, thank you so much for having me.
RAZ: You are - you really actually have a business that offers this service, right? And people are really paying you for this?
Mr. CENTRE: They really are. This is not a flash-in-the-pan, May 21st-rapture business, either. We've been an established operation since June of 2009, and we currently have 259 clients who have contracted with us so that in the event they rapture over the next 10 years, they're assured that their pets will be rescued and cared for in loving homes.
RAZ: And how much does it cost?
Mr. CENTRE: It's $135 for the first pet...
RAZ: All right.
Mr. CENTRE: ...$20 for each additional pet. We did increase our rates to those numbers in January when we started to see a major lift in demand.
RAZ: A lift in demand because of this May 21st date?
Mr. CENTRE: That's what our clients were telling us. And for the first quarter of this year, we're 27 percent up over the first quarter of 2010. And then in April and May, we're about 45 percent over April and May last year.
RAZ: What kind of animals are you committed to saving?
Mr. CENTRE: We'll take dogs. We'll take cats. We'll take small, furry mammals. We have a cockatoo and a parrot that we have under contract. And in four states, we cover large animals. So we do have a horse in Montana that is scheduled to be rescued in the event of a rapture.
RAZ: Okay, now here's a question: Why should all these people trust you? I mean, what if you end up being saved?
Mr. CENTRE: Well, we've taken care of that. First of all, we do run a criminal background check on all our rescuers. But then we asked them, we say, look, if you're an atheist, it should not be an issue to blaspheme in accordance with Mark 3:29 - which, of course, is the only unforgivable sin. And they are all very willing to do that. And that kind of confirms that even in the absurdly remote chance that we are wrong and the believers are right, our rescuers are going nowhere.
RAZ: Now, okay. If you get saved in the rapture, right, and you were to take out a contract with your company, how would that person be guaranteed that you are going to fulfill it?
Mr. CENTRE: We suggest that they find a friend who may be a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, an atheist, a Wiccan, a Catholic, an Episcopal - anyone who they think is not going to be raptured - and appoint them as their post-Rapture power of attorney.
RAZ: So tomorrow morning, are you expecting to be saddled with hundreds of pets after this event?
Mr. CENTRE: No. What I'm expecting to be saddled with are a lot of disappointed rapture believers who are now going to be doubly disappointed when they ask for a refund and forget that our terms and conditions negate any possibility of a refund.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RAZ: That's Bart Centre, creator of Eternal Earthbound Pets. That's a company that promises to look after your pet in the event you are saved during the Rapture.
Bart, good luck.
Mr. CENTRE: Guy, thank you so much for having me. And hopefully, you'll have an uneventful Sunday.
RAZ: I wouldn't bet on that.
(Soundbite of song, "The End of the World as We Know It")
R.E.M. (Rock Band): (Singing) That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplanes, Lenny Bruce is not afraid...
RAZ: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR news. I'm Guy Raz. Remember, you can hear the best of this program on our podcast. It's called WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, subscribe or listen at NPR.org/weekendatc. Or at iTunes, we post a new episode every Sunday night.
We're back on the radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening, and have a great night.
(Soundbite of song, "The End of the World as We Know It")
R.E.M.: (Singing) It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
Six o'clock, TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book-burning, blood-letting, every motive escalate, automotive incinerate. Light a candle, light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh-oh, this means no fear, cavalier. Renegade... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.