The Grim Reality
©1996, 2002 Melissa Kaplan
Sad to say, the increase in popularity of reptiles, in the United States at least, has put too many of these animals in the same situation as dogs and cats and, increasingly, potbellied pigs and house rabbits: abandoned, neglected, dumped at shelters and rescues, or worse - in the parks and neighborhoods and wild areas around our cities.
Iguanas now exceed Burmese pythons in the rate at which they are being discarded by owners. For some idea of the impact this has outside of strictly reptile circles, check out the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council's Up For Discussion: Ethics and Resources.
The most common reasons for getting rid of a reptile are:
To be fair, there are people whose lives change so dramatically and suddenly that there is no way they can continue to care for their animals. Unfortunately, these folks who really need assistance and assurance that their animals will be found good homes are competing with the vastly more numerous animals coming from homes where the owners did not do their research first or were misled by the pet trade, the very people who purport to be experts.
Herpetological societies typically have adoption programs wherein members volunteer to take in animals that are not wanted and foster them until proper homes can be found. There is also an increasing number of individuals and organizations not associated with herpetological societies who are doing the same thing. Unfortunately, these same organizations and individuals are so inundated with cast offs, especially iguanas and large boids, that they may simply not be able to take in any more.
If you are looking to get another reptile, please consider adopting one who needs a home. It may not be perfect, it may not be completely tame, it may need some tender, loving care (and injections and assisted feeding and hydration), but you will be helping out an animal in need.
Reptile rescues are individuals and organizations who take in animals and adopt them out. They may or may not ask for an adoption fee. If they don't, please consider giving one anyway. The vast majority of these people are caring for these animals out of their own pockets, even ones doing it for herp societies. People who give away their animals generally do so with nothing else--no caging, no food, no medications, no donations--and caring for dozens of animals, many of whom require veterinary care, medical supplies and special foods, is not cheap, especially when one is also caring for one's own animals and families.
Some herp societies also have members or committees who take in reptiles needing homes and then find new homes for them.
Just in case you are looking for someone to treat and care for your sick animal for you so you don't have to go to the vet, think again. Not only is it illegal for anyone who is not a licensed vet or working under direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian to provide veterinary services to other people's animals, you are asking people to pay out of their own pockets to pay for the care your pet needs.
Keeping pets - no matter the species - is not a right. They are a responsibility and a privilege.
When you get an animal for a pet, even if it is "for" your children, you are the one who is responsible for it and all of its needs: proper housing and environment, diet, medical care, and taming to reduce stress and help prevent illness and injuries.
If you cannot afford or are unwilling to provide this care for and the investment in the time such care requires, for the entire natural life of the animal, then don't get one.
Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?
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© 1994-2013 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site