Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last update January 1, 2014

Pet Trade Information and Activism

In the United States, the retail trade in live reptiles, amphibians, and related products is worth a minimum of two billion dollars annually.

- Joseph Franke MS and Teresa Telecky PhD. in, Reptiles as Pets: An Examination of the Trade in Live Reptiles in the United States. HSUS, 2001.

Contempt for animal life leads to contempt for human life.

- Edward Abbey



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Cover Image: Iguanas for Dummies.  Book written by Melissa Kaplan.
by Melissa Kaplan

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Pet Store Problems
A note to those who are thinking about chastising me for taking the offensive rather than first attempting to work with pet stores. I have. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt and am persona non grata at a few of 'em because I wouldn't back them up when they intentionally mistreated their animals, misinformed customers, and didn't like the fact that I filed formal complaints when they continued to violate California penal code provisions regarding animals in pet stores.

Willits, CA Pet Store
Santa Rosa, CA Pet Store
Sebastopol, CA Pet Store
Letter to PetsMart's President
Animal Ark Press Release: Reptile Pet Trade
A Note To the Good Pet Stores...and Bad


Some Things You Can Do...
Carnival Iguanas
Complaint Form Letter
Don't Just Get Mad: Do Something!
Pet Store Rating Program
Reptile Give-Aways at Fairs
Rules of Thumb for Evaluating Pet Stores
Writing Pet Store Complaint Letters
Responsibility & Accountability: An Alternative to Banning


Something You Shouldn't Do
Rescuing Reptiles From Pet Stores


Some Articles I've Written
Assorted Summer Musings I: Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare
Assorted Summer Musings II: Anthropomorphism and Reptiles
A Cold-Blooded Business
Reptiles Are Not Things
Up for Discussion: Ethics & Resources

1994 Kaplan & PetCo; Animal Ark
July 28 1997 Animal Ark & Petco
July 29 1997 Animal Ark & Petco
July 30 1997 Letters (1)
July 30 1997 Letters (2)
August 1997 Correspondence on a Phoenix AZ Petco
August 1997 Conference Call Recap - Kaplan
August 1997 Conference Call Recap - Cowan/Petco
August 1997 Conference Call Recap - Richard/MHS
MHS "Iguana Return Day" Press Release
Petco Managers Cited for Animal Abuse
San Francisco Files Abuse, Cruelty Charges against 2 Petcos
Melissa Kaplan's Letter to SF Chronicle and City Attorney
S. F. Files Suite Against Petco
Petco Sued for Material Misrepresenting Facts to Stockholder
KPIX Investigates: Animal Abuse and Animal Neglect at Petco

Petco Settles Suit Alleging Abuse, Overcharging, May 27, 2004
Petco has agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle a consumer protection lawsuit alleging abuse and overcharging. The company admits no wrongdoing, but will pay more than $800,000. The suit alleged that Petco overcharged customers for advertised sale items and cared for animals improperly. A quarter of the settlement will pay to install new pricing equipment in stores across the state. [California]


Animal Regulations
Reptiles are not covered under the Animal Welfare act that covers other pet and laboratory animals. If the individual state penal code does not specifically include reptiles in with the state animal or pet welfare provisions, animal regulatory agencies too often will shrug and claim that there is nothing they can do to force a pet store, wholesaler or distributor to clean up their act.

Check your own state's penal code to see if reptiles are covered. If you find the provisions on a website (try your state's website, where xx = your state's two letter abbreviation, then look for the penal code or other online listing of state codes). If you find it, send me a link and I will add it to the list.

State Animal Welfare Provisions (Including Reptiles)

California Minnesota
Florida Pennsylvania
Massachusetts Virginia

States Banning Animal Prizes

New York

Email list to discuss animal prizes: CarnivalIguana

States Requiring Stores Distribute Pet Care Information



Effect of Herp Pets on the Conservation and Environment
Burnout: When Rescuers Need Rescuing
Exotic Pets Blamed for Frogs' Demise
Iguanas and Other Reptile Pets Around The World
Mine's An Iguana
Releasing Captive Reptiles
Reptile not repulsive - but keeping them is
Up for Discussion: Ethics & Resources
See more articles on my Conservation page...


A note to the few good pet stores...
Please: before you send me a scathing letter informing me that not all pet stores are bad, I know that. But, in my experience and that of other knowledgeable herpers, birders, fishkeepers, rabbit keepers and others, most stores, unfortunately, are.

If you don't believe it, take a day and make in cognito visits to other pet stores in your county. Make like you are the typical customer who knows nothing about reptiles or other animals other than the fact that you want to get one. Look carefully at the animal's setups. Listen carefully to the information imparted. Use the Evaluating Pet Stores form to help keep track of the things to look for.

The way to stop me and so many others to stop being so critically vocal about the bad pet store conditions is not to complain to us about the terrible things we say. If you want to see change, get out there and start to demand change within your own industry. Demand better accountability and application of due process in the state humane officers who only see violations if they are being done to dogs and cats or whatever their animal of preference is, ignoring all the rest.

If change is going to happen in a way that is least punitive to the good stores and the industry as a whole, it is going to have to come from within the industry itself. Otherwise, change will be imposed by those who have no understanding of your industry and you will surely not fare as well.


A note to the many bad pet stores
One of the dilemmas of anyone doing pet rescue is that sooner or later you realize that you are sleeping with the enemy. By taking in sick and dying animals, mostly animals that the human should never have acquired in the first place, you start to realize that you are enabling the system to continue as it is.

The pet trade exploits animals by selling them inappropriately, humans buy what they are misled into thinking is appropriate, and the poor shnook of a rescuer is left holding the bag (or crate or feces-soaked cardboard box) and, all too often, a hefty vet bill, all from cleaning up someone else's mess. Rescuing Reptiles from Pet Stores is not about how to rescue pet store reptiles: it is about why you should not.

My stance isn't too far away from Animal Ark's revised policy on taking in unwanted reptiles. We think that this is something that all rescues and herp societies need to start thinking seriously about. After all, if you aren't out there helping to solve the problem, you are part of the problem.


So, where's a good place to get herp pets?
The best place to start is by adopted herps that need to be rehomed, or buying them from local captive breeders. Join your local herp society - the best place to meet and talk to other herp keepers as well as meeting those who breed various reptiles and amphibians. Many societies also do rescue and rehab, taking in healthy and sick herps that need new homes. There are many individuals who do rescue, as well. To find both rescues and societies in your area, see my Herp Societies/Rescues resource. Also talk with your reptile vet: they often know of herps needing new homes.

Some societies put on annual expos or bazaars, inviting only captive breeders to show and sell. Patronize expos that both feature captive bred animals AND whose producers make sure that only healthy animals are visible and on sale. Use the resources both online and offline to learn about and check out more distant breeders to maximize your chances of obtaining healthy, captive bred animals.

You're either part of the solution, or part of the problem. Which do you want to be?  

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

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