Responsible exotic Pet Ownership

Posted: August 8, 2013 in Animals
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Due to a recent snake attack that tragically killed two N.B boys exotic animals have been in the media non stop and there has been a war brewing between people who hate exotics and people who own them. Those who dislike the idea of snake ownership or exotic animal ownership feel that these animals should never be housed indoors and belong in the wild.  It is quite easy to throw words and insult around when one is not educated on specific species. I myself have been attacked and called immature, stupid, irresponsible and not right in the head because I do in fact own a snake as well as a few other exotics (A psychopathic iguana and a  nice little Bearded Dragon) And no I do not own the snake pictured above, that was snake brought in by a professional for a birthday party and it is a Burmese Python Which is used to constant handling.

The thing is, a ban isn’t going to solve any problems. Snake escapes and attacks are very rare and it all comes down to common sense and Responsible pet ownership. Just like someone is responsible for their dog, snake owners and exotic owners  are also responsible for their animals. This means proper enclosures, sanitary conditions, a well fed animal and knowledge on the animal that they own.

Now that snakes are in the media, the media is picking up and reporting as much snake related news they can get their hands on. A good example is the headline “Python escapes Vancouver home” A Ball python got out of it’s enclosure and the owners are searching for it. This doesn’t mean it’s outside and this also doesn’t mean that people are at risk. They probably aren’t because the breed of python that got loose is a Ball Python one of the most docile and least dangerous breeds of snakes there are. This hasn’t stopped people from spewing negative comments such as “These animals belong in the wild it’s pitiful to see them in tanks” “People who own snakes are not right in the head and are just trying to get attention-they are like ‘hey look at me I own a snake'” “People who own these things are very stupid.” “They say it’s not dangerous but it constricts, it could kill someone!” “It’s time to ban ownership of these animals”

There are thousands of households in North America that have pet snakes, Lizards and other exotics. If Everyone had to give their animals up Zoo’s could not take them all in and they can not be released back into the wild as most are captive bred and can’t even survive in their natural environment. Snakes don’t prefer open spaces either. Snakes like to laze around and wait for food which they can stalk. A terrarium the length of the snake is perfect. Being in a terrarium is just a convenience, they have perfect temperatures, they feel quite comfortable coiled up in a tank and best of all they are handed food on a silver platter.

But what about safety? It’s simple, knowledge on the animal owned, proper housing and knowing whether your house is even suitable for owning an exotic all come into effect. Large snakes need large homes-can you afford a very big terrarium? Because a Burmese Python or a Boa get quite large. Will you be able to provide and afford food? What other pets are in the house? Are there children in the house? If it gets out can it escape the house or leave the room it’s in? Do you have the proper license to own a large breed snake? Is it even legal in your town to own a large snake? Do you practice the buddy system when handling dangerous exotics? Part of responsible pet ownership is following all the guidelines to owning a pet.

Picture0028Picture0032From one Exotic owner to another I thought I’d discuss my pets, the guidelines that I follow and I want to educate people about these animals. I got all 3 of my exotics not because I wanted them out of a whim but because I adopted them. They each have a story. So I’ll start with my Ball Python. Odo is an almost fully grown male Ball Python who I got from a friend who was downsizing his snake collection. Odo was thought to be a female but turned out it was male so became useless for breeding as he is just a normal common ball python and to get specific morphs and patterned snakes you would not use him for breeding. He was not a pet prior to me owning him. When I was offered Odo I went and bought a 20 gallon Terrarium with some substrate and a heat pad. I get free rats from my workplace so he will always have food. I would not have gotten Odo if I didn’t have the money for a proper enclosure or if I was not prepared for him. I’ve always wanted a snake because I really enjoy them. For a snake that was rarely handled he is extremely easy to handle. I used to own a corn snake and the corn snake was harder to handle and I had the risk of being bitten. Ball Pythons rarely strike and they rarely constrict humans. If they do constrict a human they are easy to pull off as they are not as strong as other constrictors. Obviously I never let my daughter handle it alone as that would be stupid. I do handle the snake when I am alone and I feel that he is very safe to handle…but at the same time I never grab his tail or his face, I know from handling experience that snakes do not like their faces touched. Mine balls up and hides when he gets scared. Are Ball Pythons dangerous? I’d have to say no, there are no reported serious attacks from this breed and they are the most common breed of snake owned across North America.

931175_10200680677273737_1949095850_nBowzer is a Bearded Dragon. The reason I got Bowzer is because I already had all the stuff for a proper enclosure and he was up for adoption at my workplace. Bowzer could not be sold to a petstore because he has half of a tail and missing some toes. His Brothers and sisters bit his tail and feet resulting in being what we call “Almost perfect”. Bowzer loves to eat Dandelion greens and superworms. Bowzer is very friendly and Bearded dragons make great pets for first time lizard owners. Children can handle them and they like to latch on to shoulders and just hang out. Bowzer is not dangerous at all and most Beardies have funny personalities. He has a nice big tank but really likes his basking spot the most. They only run when they chase food or you take them out of their enclosure and allow them to roam.  Mine usually just mozies on if I pace him on the floor but if I throw a worm in front of him he’s lightning quick.

420796_3143836389248_970591665_nGarek is a female 4 year old Green Iguana. We also adopted her and she came with her very large enclosure. Garek is not friendly and we’ve tried to handle her to make her friendly with zero success. She’s honestly the most vicious thing I have ever owned. She slaps me with her tail, hisses ate me and lunges at me when I go near her. She’s miserable! Why do I own her? Because her owners could not house her due to having to move and the people who owned her before they did neglected her. She’s scraggly and has constant eye infections because of being abused.  She looks much more healthy now though as she has gotten a lot of TLC for the 2 years I have owned her. She loves her dandelion and collard greens and berries are a great snack.

382262_10200360346585670_911153845_nIf you don’t plan to have an exotic animal or any animal for that matter forever then don’t get one PERIOD. My iguana is not friendly at all, she won’t go out of her way to harm us but she’d bite given the chance. I still love her regardless because there’s nothing that brightens my day more than seeing her peeved off look when I look at her. She may be miserable and demanding but she’s still our iguana and we intend to house her until she dies of old age…and because she’s so grumpy I’m sure she’s got plenty of years left.

What exotic ownership comes down to is proper ownership. Unfortunately there are bad owners out there and the same goes for owners of cats and dogs. People are the issue not the animals. If anyone is not housing an animal properly they need to be reported for the safety of the public and the animal. There are many more responsible owners out there who adore their animals. We’re not weird or stupid just because we own snakes and lizards (Okay maybe some are because I’ve met a few strange reptile owners in my lifetime) we just simply enjoy these beautiful creatures. And remember before you judge an animal owner or an animal do some research first don’t just immediately jump on the band wagon and spew negative comments. How would you like it if someone called you an idiot for being a cat or dog owner? Reptiles make wonderful pets, some species not so much but people own them anyways for whatever reason. There probbaly does need to be bylaws for certain animals (Larger snakes, Crocs, monitor lizards, Caymans etc) but if people show that they have the proper equipment to house one then why not? Don’t go and try and own a dangerous exotic on a whim though, they are much better enjoyed in Accredited zoos and facilities.

Making these animals illegal will do more harm than good. Firstly people will release them into the wild. Secondly zoos can not and will not take in everyone’s snakes as there are literally thousands of them in Canada. And Third people will house them illegally anyway and the reptiles will not get proper veterinary care due to the fact they are illegal. A large percentage of snakes owned in Canada are captive bred, particularly Ball pythons as they are bred specifically to get specific colorings.  And for those considering a pet snake please go to a breeder so you know you are getting something that was captive bred.

Own an animal of any kind? Be responsible.

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