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Should reptiles be kept as pets

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Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  Chris-AWD on Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:31 am

Hi all,

I am not sure whether I am posting this in the right place - if not I'm sure the moderators will move it.

I am a firm believer in keeping wildlife in the wild. In South Africa we have a problem where reptiles are being sold from roadsides to be kept as pets. Because of the ignorance of the buyers most of the "cute chameleons" etc die within weeks.

Wildlife protection organizations in Europe are applauding a decision by the Norwegian government to retain a 37-year old ban on reptile and amphibian keeping and trading.

A 65 page research report supports the decision as to why they decided this. If you’re interested google for “ reptiles and amphibians as pets - the Norwegian positive list proposal”

I remember reading some time ago that Britons increasingly opt for low-maintenance pets such as bearded dragons and geckos. Apparantly the number of reptiles kept as pets in the UK has increased to around 9 million, compared to about 7 million dogs.

Are you witnessing this trend in the UK?

What do people around here think? For or against keeping reptiles as pets?

Chris


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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  littlewid on Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:13 pm

HI Chris
I did think about moving this to the debate section but for now I think you are just after a general consensus on what people think and it is directed as a pet question, so happy to leave it here for now.

I am not sure myself if reptiles are being more sought after as pets compared to dogs and cats. What we do seem to hear about or see on programmes about animal centres is that a lot of reptiles that have been brought as pets either end up in animal centres or dead or near to death because people do not know how to look after them properly. They may be posed as easy or low maintenance but they do have their specific needs and I don't believe that people always research how much specific care some need.

Do I think they should be taken from their natural habitat to become pets or breeders for pets, no I don't. Then the question then comes, what do you do with all the ones that are bred here from imported species? It's so hard isn't it because if they are not homed do we just let them die? I actually like a lot of reptiles but I think we should really play a part in this country in stopping the illegal trade of them and for those that are legal is it a case of having a licence to keep them? We used to have a licence to have a dog, it was only a small fee and I am not sure if that stopped cruelty or not, so not sure if a licence would for reptiles either.

Sadly so many animals are taken from their natural environment to either become pets or zoo exhibits, there is such a lot of debate as to what is classed as right or wrong but I do believe if you own any creature as a pet, rightly or wrongly you owe it to that creature to do your very best for it and not mistreat it.

I probably haven't answered your question at all.........sorry Embarassed

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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  whitestarling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:20 pm

My answer Chris, is a definite NO. A wild animal of whatever species is exactly that, a wild animal, and should never be kept as a pet. All animals should have the best quality if life, so how can you give a wild animal that quality of life, it’s impossible simply because it’s a wild animal. I for one cannot see what enjoyment a person can get from keeping reptiles. How do you take a snake, or a lizard for a walk ?, how do you create a bond with them ?I just do not see what enjoyment anyone can get from keeping them. There does not seem to be any restrictions in the UK to keeping reptiles, apart from endangered species which surprises me. I just checked online, and the number of sites advertising Bearded Dragons is amazing. I didn’t realise they were so popular. So as I said for me the answer is most definitely No.
Thanks for bringing it up Chris, really interesting subject
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  gregrowlerson on Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:55 am

Nice topic starter Chris, and good points made all around about reptiles being wild and not really a pet. How do you create a bond with one as you do a dog or cat? Exactly WS. Must be mostly that some take reptiles into their home thinking they are low maintenance. I guess that in many cases the kids want a pet, maybe the parents don't; a turtle or a snake or a lizard is the compromise.

I am thinking about getting a lizard now though as I am smiling at the thought of being able to get it to heel on our walk. Could be more achievable than with my Jackeys
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  Chris-AWD on Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:43 am

I am happy to see these comments.

One of the firts problems are that keepers of reptiles as pets usually have no knowledge of their dietary requirements and the result is inevitability that malnutrition is the main causes of death. That is why the end up at the abandoned animal centers that LW is referring to.

Handling a wild animal is always poor practice. Unlike domesticated animals such as dogs and cats, that have social traits that make them amenable to interaction with humans - reptiles do not have those traits. In fact handling these wild animals is typically a stressful process for the animal because it usually perceives the handler as a predator.

Reptiles also require substantial space. When we study them in nature we see that they are highly active as part of their home ranges and/or to defend territories. They must be highly active in order to catch their prey. To put that animal in a cage is extremely stressful to it.

Glad we seem to agree on this.

Chris

By the way in the UK you have a "Pets at Home chain" which reported a 250% increase in annual sales of reptiles and related products in 2011. I am not sure whether that trend is still happening today.

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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  littlewid on Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:40 pm

I can't say for sure whether Pets at Home still sell reptiles Chris as I don't tend to use them much but I know the one we have did used to sell reptiles, I will have to take a closer look when I am next near there.

It is good that we do seem to have the same thought process that reptiles should be left in the wild. The trouble is that man wantsto get his hands on everything, whatever the cost to the animal or species.
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  gregrowlerson on Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:19 am

Very good points Chris about people not knowing what food to give reptiles, and that to handle them is stressful.

I can hear them yelling, "If I wanted to be patted I'd be a furry!"
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  wrenpeters on Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:15 am



Created an account just to reply to this!

Reptiles make amazing pets. I recently lost my bearded dragon in the fall, but had her for 7.5 years. She was my absolute baby. I also have a blue tongue skink (BTS) and our relationship has gotten a lot stronger since my beardie's passing.

At the end of the day, there are some people out there who will inevitably make bad pet owners, and this isn't contingent on the type of animal they adopt. For example, although there is lots of information out there about cat/dog care, people still feed their pets improperly, don't take them out for walks, neglect to have them seen by a vet, etc.

I am an incredibly responsible, loving pet owner and that is irregardless of whether I have reptiles or not. However, it is certainly more difficult to be a responsible reptile owner. There are fewer vets out there who practice herpetology (zoology that studies scaly creatures), and getting the reptile's environment right (i.e. lighting, substrate, humidity, etc) can be such a difficult task.

At the end of the day, I acknowledge that housing a creature who is so far from their natural habitat is a worthy debate. Kona's origins are Indonesian, but most skinks sold in Canada are captive-bread, so I feel a little less guilty.

What I absolutely, do NOT condone are big-box pet stores selling reptiles. Their target demographic are suburban families who hadn't considered adopting a reptile until they walked in the store to look at furry faces. I see this all the time, and it breaks my heart. They overprice their animals to turn a profit and are far from interested in the animal's health and livelihood. It is also more difficult for chain pet stores like Petland (*hate*) to crank out reptiles because the demand isn't quite there.

I rescued my skink from Petland after learning he had been there for two years and he was in rough shape. Reptiles are not fans of loud noises and he was so scared in this overly bright, overly loud suburban pet store (in a mall, mind you!). I actually had a friend drag me into the store to look at cats, but I always tend to gravitate to reptiles instead. I had never seen a skink before, but was completely fascinated. When I held him for the first time they gave me a towel because they just accepted that he peed every time he was held. He was so afraid. They had no records whatsoever of his birth, where they got him from, or anything. It was a mess. I wasn't in the market to adopt at the time, but I felt that after having my beardie I was equipped with the knowledge and resources to bring home a little soul who desperately needed a second chance. Shame on you, Petland! I did some research when I got home and determined I had room in my life for him. Yay! I took him to my vet immediately after getting him settled and discovered he had an infection that warranted antibiotics and had to be monitored regularly. I just adopted him, and already I spent $400 on getting him healthy. Ridiculous.

If anyone is interested in adopting a scaly face, I highly recommend going to a local pet store with a well-established reptile section. They are harder to find, but those who run the facilities know a TON about reptiles and have targeted the niche market of reptile owners. It's a win-win! I buy all my supplies at my favourite mom and pop store in Calgary, Canada (Tanks a Lot) and they have been a tremendous resource in both my pets' lives. These places also know the herps in town (vets who practice herpetology) and will easily make recommendations for a good one. Having a vet is a non-negotiable, in my opinion. You take your cat and dog to the vet, and reptiles deserve the same, especially since they communicate health problems to us so poorly; it's so hard to know if they're sick sometimes.

So short story long, I think reptiles make great pets. Just because people can be irresponsible pet owners doesn't mean reptiles should be off the pet market. I would love to see restrictions or better practices in screening potential pet owners before they make the plunge. I love my skink (and my beardie, rest her sweet little heart) and I think I've make a great pet mom!


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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  gregrowlerson on Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:04 pm

Well hello there.

If I did happen to be a reptile than I'm certainly not anymore, as I'm feeling rather warm blooded just now...

And sunny is meant to be over in Australia confused

So I guess the most important question is, do you handle warm blooded creatures too? Cool Laughing

It's a little unfair to post those pics. Sure, I've posted pics of myself on here that are half handsome, but not whilst trying to make an argument Very Happy

Cause you kinda had me at blue tongue Razz

On a slightly more serious note, a very warm http://www.picgifs.c to the forum WP (we all get nicknames around here). This place tends to be more into big cats, other African animals, birds and so forth, though of course we can always be influenced to take a different interest Very Happy

And it's up to us to influence you too!

leopard in Tree leopard in Tree leopard in Tree leopard in Tree

You obviously have enormous passion for this subject (scalys) and thanks for taking the time to make such a detailed response to Chris' original post and the rest of our follow ups.

It's a good point you make about there being such an abundance of info out there for dog and cat owners. It is all around us; issues with dogs (the pets I have) certainly cannot be blamed on a lack of collective intelligence on behalf of the human race on the subject; whereas for reptiles there is probably a lot more general ignorance.

And of course there are bad pet owners regardless of the type of animal.

More intelligent folk might be encouraged to become vets in the reptile field if they were given a more favourable title of study than herpetology! Sorry, but it sounds rather like a Censored disease lol!

In the case of reptile vets though, isn't it a case of supply and demand? More dog/cat owners mean that more vets will go into those fields as there will be more guaranteed work. Without greater numbers of reptile pets this discrepency won't change. But there could be a lot higher percentage of reptile owners out there than I would imagine.

Your story of your rescue of your skink is very lovely. I don't know too much about pet stores in Australia, but the ones I've seen just have furries; dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs. Oh, and budgies.

So you living in a big city (Calgary) means that you have good access to all your reptile needs, whereas if you lived more out in the wilderness - which there is a lot of I gather in spacious Canada - it would be a huge distance to travel to get to any expert on the matter.

With your skink and deceased beardie, are they really affectionate with you? It looks like it from your photos, and that would surprise me I guess. Does the blue tongue give you little licks/kisses? Very Happy My dogs do, as do many other canines. Have your lizards often gravitated towards you to seek company, or are they more sterotypical cat like and keep to themselves, waiting for your approach?

Not too sure if many creatures could resist you handling them though, so your point about lizards being comfortable whilst held may be rather invalid. You've merely indicated that lizards have great taste http://www.picgifs.c Very Happy

So in summing up, it might be politically incorrect to own reptiles as pets, but then again so is the post. And political incorrectness can be rather Cool indeedy.

tongue GR (proud owner of a pair of jack russells; about as un-reptile as one gets) tongue

P.S. But there sure aren't any scales on your skin Wink
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  wrenpeters on Fri Apr 19, 2013 3:20 pm

Most Canadians live in urbanized areas and have access to resources, including vets and herps. I would think that those who live in rural areas not easily accessible to a city would be unlikely to have pets at all, given the difficulty of carting food/ supplies back and forth, let alone the commute for an emergency. Therefore I think it's less likely that people living in rural areas would be interested in housing exotics. I know I would definitely think twice about it.

I don't consider the low numbers of herps to be an issue at this time, at least not where I live. There are certainly fewer of them as I mentioned earlier, but supply/demand comments account for this. Vets are also trained to stabilize all animals in the event of an emergency (at least all of them at my clinic are), so there are certainly makeshift resources out there if reptile pet owners need them. I was very thankful for this when my beardie was having a hard time breathing late on a Sunday night.

I get asked questions about affection regularly, and the truth is a biased one- of course they're affectionate! I read a lot about critics who see their "snuggling" as gravitating toward a heat source, but I don't know if I believe it in its entirety. Kona is a great example of this.

When my beardie Trogdor passed away, I was absolutely devastated. Months leading to her passing were focused entirely on her. I forgot to feed my blue tongue skink and I found him frustrating because he was always so busy and didn't like to sit still the way she did. I saw him more as a chore than a pet. After her passing I approached my vet about my grief and admitted I didn't want him anymore. It was a very hard time. He encouraged me to try again with Kona and reconnect, so I did. I took him out more, fed him his favourite foods, cleaned his substrate more frequently, and held him more often. The results were tremendous. Once a picky eater, he will inhale anything I put in front of him, he is out and about more in his tank, and he has responded positively to increased handling. We've both turned a new leaf, and I would definitely call him more affectionate as a result.

I don't think reptiles have the capacity to deliberately approach a human, even for heat. They operate on a much more instinctual, primal level, and I, like most other reptile owners I would think, am perfectly fine with that.

Reptiles make great pets because they truly expand your way of thinking. We are not conditioned into thinking that scales make great pets in my culture. Kids learn to articulate the names of lions and tigers before crocodiles and monitors. Snakes and crocs are purported as killers instead of primal animals trying to survive in the circle of life. Owning a reptile goes against what we've been conditioned to think. Hugging, cuddling, and playing with a reptile is still considered a little weird, but I can't even begin to express the way in which my pets have influenced others' views on reptiles. They certainly blew me away- I had no idea how well-developed their personalities and how overt their preferences could be.
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  whitestarling on Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:25 pm

Hi Wren
Welcome to WAA, and thank you for responding, and commenting on this topic. It’s good to hear the other side of the debate from someone who has experience of keeping Reptiles.
From your story you are clearly a loving, and caring pet owner, who has taken the trouble to research the pets in your care, and well done for saving the BTS from Petland. Apart from the fact that I believe that all wild creatures, should live in the wild, and not be pets, I think it’s places like Petland that are the biggest cause of the problem with keeping Reptiles. Stores likes this are just interested in turnover, and profit, and will sell to anyone. They are selling Reptiles as low maintenance that you can keep in a flat, or anywhere. They don’t, and are unable to give proper advice in the keeping, problems, and downfalls of keeping Reptiles, and really they should be banned from selling them, and the sale of Reptiles if they are going to be sold, they should only be through specialist stores.
On the pet side as I said I don’t think wild creatures of any sort should be sold as pets, and although you say that yours show affection, I cant believe that they have bonding emotions like Cats, and Dogs, true they will show signs of fear, and stress, but as far as coming to you for a cuddle, or for comfort I just cant see it. I also think with most people their reaction to Reptiles is primal, and instinctive, that stems from when cold, and warm blooded animals split, and most people fear of reptiles stems from there, also in nearly all the stories you read including the Bible, Reptiles are nearly always the baddies, and evil that is evidence of our basic feelings towards them.
Having said all that, I think your pics with BTS are great, and show how much you care for it, and I’m also sad that you lost Trogdor, again that must have been very emotional for you. So Wren I absolutely agree You make a Great Pet Mom

WS
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  gregrowlerson on Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:53 am

WP, you're the first newbie in months I think who has actually bothered to make a second post http://i70.servimg.c

We can always do with more chitter chatter around here - which we call rabbitting - so feel free to browse the forum where there is interesting conversation aplenty and become one of us http://www.picgifs.c

With plenty of resources around regarding reptile vets, I suppose it's what you suggested earlier; that some pet owners just don't bother with caring for their animal, and don't want to pay the costs to give them the happy and healthy life that they deserve.

Nothing wrong with snuggling towards a heat source anyway. My dog Bella does this regularly with me, and she is still considered by the masses as being affectionate. But that your skink doesn't approach you for heat/affection is of course different to my jack russell.

It's pretty heart-wrenching what you write about the passing of Trogdor. Obviously it really effected you greatly and took quite some time to get over (though perhaps in a way you will never get over it as she will always have a place in your heart). Thank-you for sharing this story with us.

I'm with WS in that you make a great pet mom. Your care for your scalys is clearly a profound one.
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  Chris-AWD on Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:33 am

Hi Wren

I don’t want to repeat what WS said but you have clearly handled your duties as a reptile owner with a great degree of responsibility, which is very praiseworthy.

The fact that you have rescued your skink form Petland and have bonded emotionally makes my original post basically irrelevant in this context because it was certainly not aimed at people like you.

I am certainly not an expert on reptiles and my interest is more with African wildlife that roams the open plains on our continent.(hence my concerns with wild animals kept in captivity)

Maybe this is an opportunity for you to educate us (well certainly me).

The main concern I would have regarding your pets is that reptiles require environmental space to pursue and catch their prey. Are they also not usually active when in nature and travel long distances as part of their home ranges and to defend territories?

Scientists say that providing water and food in captivity doesn’t sufficiently address the physiologically need for these animals to move around. So I suppose my concerns relate to captivity-stress problems that you have encountered and how you have managed it.

I would love to hear your opinion on this.

Chris


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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  littlewid on Sun Apr 21, 2013 9:08 pm

HI Wren
Welcome to the forum. I know you said you only joined to add your comment to this post but I hope you stay around.
Chris was right, his post was not directed at kind people like yourself who have rescued reptiles, you have obviously done a wonderful job and are now quite accomplished with looking after them. The question about as to whether they should be pets so really should they be left in the wild. I am with WS on this that all wild animals should be left in the wild, however, as breeding goes on they do need caring and well informed owners like yourself.
It has been interesting reading about your reptiles and it would be really nice if you could update us about them on a regular basis and educate us more on reptiles. This forum may appear to be mainly about African wildlife but actually it's about all animals so having more info and pics, which yours are great by the way, on reptiles would be fantastic as we all love to learn and you may be able help others that are looking in but may not have actually joined the forum.
It's been informative reading your posts, so thank you Group Hug
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  wrenpeters on Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:57 am

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! I definitely like to share my two cents about reptile care and ownership wherever possible.

With regard to the concern about psychological needs and captive-raised animals, I honestly think it depends the reptile's needs more than anything. For instance, a Savannah Monitor is a humungous reptile that needs to hunt rodents (as an adult) and has significant space requirements. A lot of people create leashes for them too and take them on walks to help them get exercise. I thought for a while about getting a monitor down the road, but realized they're a species that truly deserves to be in the wild; they compromise too much to be domesticated, in my humble opinion.

However, a skink hunts small insects but eats most vegetables. In Canada, I have access to a wide range of insects, from crickets to worms, including meal worms, wax worms, butter worms, horn worms, silk worms, and super worms. At least I have some selection in what I feed Kona, especially since most worms are not healthy. I find this very frustrating, because places like Petland will only sell the crappy worms (meal worms and super worms) and crickets (which don't have much nutritional value and are a pain to keep). So short story long, I buy worms relatively regularly for Kona and it definitely invokes a little primal instinct in him.

I also found a great list of fruits and vegetables suitable for captive-raised iguanas from anapsid.org that is transferable to skinks. This website was recommended by my vet and it has all kinds of information that any current or prospective reptile parent could want- it's great! Some websites recommend wet cat/dog food for reptiles (YUCK!) and I'm very, very against that. They're cold blooded reptiles, not warm blooded mammals, and they have different dietary requirements. I also supplement with two powders called "Reptigel" and "Critical Care." These are actually used for reptiles who are recovering from illness or surgery and are unwilling to eat. However, Kona has a great appetite and eats this combination by the spoon, but I continue to use it to supplement his regular diet of fruits and vegetables. Both of these come from the vet's office.

I also let Kona run around every once in a while, but I have to keep an eye on him because he tends to take a poop when he's active Laughing He once took a crap in my pillow sham haha. What a guy.

So I definitely think that reptiles can be comfortable and happy in a domestic situation, but I think it does really depend on the species.
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  Chris-AWD on Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:45 am

Wren your post now reminds me of something I saw once that I thought was a very strange sight.

A few years back when I was still traveling quite a bit I missed a flight out of Miami, Florida. I had to spend the weekend in a hotel on Miami Beach.

I was amazed to see people walking these huge reptiles on leashes down Ocean Drive. I had no idea they could be reptile pet owners that were walking their Savannah Monitors for a walk to get exercise.

If you are familiar with Ocean Drive on a weekend you will know that it is a hectic place. I think these owners were doing it to show off their “exotic pets” because it certainly drew a lot of attention.

I agree with you that "they're a species that truly deserves to be in the wild."

Chris







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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  wrenpeters on Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:49 am

Oh that's upsetting. I don't like seeing exotics on display. Though to be fair, I would take both my lizards out for walks in the park on hot summer days as a great but I really did not like the attention. People have good intentions, but my kids and I just wanted to be alone in the sunshine! Kona and I now have a routine where I drop him in the tall grass around trees. I have to stand there and watch him get all excited about the new smells before he takes a nap wrapped around a tree. Haha what a guy!
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  whitestarling on Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:24 am

I agree with both you Wren, and Chris. There is no way a Monitor of that size should be kept as a pet, and also displayed in that way. I've watched Water Monitors on the Web Cams on here on Pete's Pond in SA, and Africam. They are true creatures of the wild, and should be left there. There's a big difference in you taking Kona out, your giving him stimulation, and new sensations with different areas to explore, and thats brilliant, its also shows what responsible, and caring owner you are. It's a long way from doing what is the equivalent of a fashion parade, like Chris saw on Ocean Drive.
WOW Wren I did'nt know there were so many types of different worms. I've never heard of a lot of those, are they local to Canada or are some imported in. I dont think we have many different types here in the UK, I will have to check
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Re: Should reptiles be kept as pets

Post  gregrowlerson on Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:42 pm

Great posts guys; very interesting reading

And I guess that if WP is only going to chat about this subject then I'd better start speaking reptilian Laughing

You have a Cool way with words lizard lover and provide us with interesting stories Thanks

"I thought for a while about getting a monitor down the road, but realized" that they're not very fuel efficient Laughing I just have never really thought of these animals as a pet before, so find it all kind of amusing. Good on you for admitting your interest in getting one, but in not doing so due to caring for their wellbeing.

And you are humble! I couldn't stop laughing when you spoke of attention received by you and your kids when out in the park, because well, I wasn't sure if it was your loved ones who were the ones being viewed as exotic Cool

Chris, thanks for your story about Miami beach. Must have been quite a sight and shock!

As WS suggested, your knowledge about your passion (scalys) is truly phenomenal WP. Wow for sure. When did your love for reptiles first become apparent to you? Was there one particular experience that inspired it? Do you think that there is a particular aspect to your personality that has drawn you to the green things rather than to cats or dogs? It's interesting I think. But I could ask myself the same I guess. Why do I like dogs? I have been exposed to them a bit in life before getting one as a pet myself, and that contributted. Did you encounter many other reptiles as pets before taking the plunge yourself?

I like the phrase you use of "What a guy!" It's a very smirk-inducing way of describing your Kona's actions!

GR http://www.picgifs.c
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gregrowlerson

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