Today is Nation Pet Day! A great holiday to celebrate, but for us here at Jungle Bob’s, every day is pet day! Although at our core, we are a retail “pet store”, we like to think of ourselves as more than that. I am writing this today to expand on that a bit.
My name is Tyler, and I am one of the owners here, along with my brother (Dylan) and my father (Jungle Bob). Together, we have been keeping reptiles since at least 1995 and over that time we have learned through research and trail and error, that some animals make far better pets than others.
Here at Jungle Bob’s Reptile World, we strive to educate our current and potential customers about which animals might be the right fit for them and their family. As much as we would love to sell something to everyone that walks in the door, we would much rather be up front and honest with them about what it takes to keep an animal happy and healthy for the duration of their lives, even if
that talks them out of purchasing anything. It does no good to us, the customer, and especially the animal to cut corners.
Buying a pet is a huge responsibility. It is literally taking a life into your hands. Whether it is a hermit crab, a dog, a bird, a snake, a pony or a turtle. That animal now depends on YOU to keep it alive and happy. I have personally turned down lucrative sales, simply because I felt the customer was not serious or ready for such a commitment. This ironically winds up helping in the long run, and I would love to see more shops take this approach. In this “blog” or “article” or whatever you want to all it, I will go through some of the most commonly purchased pets and discuss whether or not they make sense for the everyday person, or new pet owner.
When the average person thinks of a “pet lizard” they tend to think Iguana. Now personally, I love iguanas, but they are some of the most mistreated and neglected reptiles in the world. For decades, they have been brought into pet shops as babies. Adorable 8”-12” beautifully green lizards that are shockingly affordable (often as low as $20). However, what most pet stores failed to mention (whether it was from lack of knowledge or more concern for making a quick sale) these animals can grow to 6+feet long, live for 25+ years, and if not handled correctly can be very dangerous. Now, if you have the time, space,
knowledge, and funds to erect a giant enclosure with proper heating and lighting, and you have done extensive homework, by all mean get one! This is not the case 95% of the time though. We have taken in countless iguanas over the years that are stunted, malnourished, or in some cases even deceased prior to arrival. That led us to stop selling these animals in our stores. We still rescue and adopt them out to people who are more experienced but will no longer offer them as a “starter pet” option. Topping our list for good starter pet options are Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, and Crested Geckos. There are certainly other options, but these “big 3” are by far the most popular and easy to care for.
“Beardies” are in a class all by themselves when it comes to friendly, hardy, and reasonably sized pet lizards. Their calm demeanor and extremely docile personality make them incredibly popular. I have personally owned many Bearded Dragons in my life and can count on 1 hand how many times I have been bit (and it was my fault every time).
They still require care and attention like any other pet but needing a 36x18” terrarium (at least) and staying 18-24” long, they make a much more reasonable pet to have in your home. Requiring a varied diet of insects and veggies, they might not be for everyone, but even the family members who are more apprehensive or nervous, wind up coming around and loving their dragon most of the time. (more info can be found on our care sheet at junglebob.com)
Leopard Geckos have been around in the pet trade for decades. These small, hardy geckos are a good choice for people that want a lizard, but don’t want as big of a terrarium or as many heat and UVB lights as a Bearded Dragon needs. Leopard Geckos will live comfortably in a 30x12” terrarium for their whole lives! (Of course, a largerenclosure is never a bad idea!). Being a nocturnal animal, they do not need as much heat or UVB lighting as a Beardie. They are very docile and easy to handle for all ages! (more info can be found on our care sheet at junglebob.com)
“Cresties” are fairly new to the pet trade and have quickly risen to the top of the charts! These nocturnal geckos thrive with a maximum temperature of about 80 degrees, do not want or require uvb light, and can live on a fruit and protein-based paste, now available from many different brands. Adorable in appearance and small in stature, they quickly win over the hearts of their new family! (more info can be found on our care sheet at junglebob.com)
Everyone knows the stigma that is attached to snakes. They are called “deadly, man-eating, venomous, evil creatures”. While some can certainly be deadly and about 10% of the species are venomous, they are far from “evil”. Many people come into our store asking for the “biggest snake you have”. We quickly alert them to the fact that it is not wise to just buy a giant snake. For starters, most larger species are illegal to own in New York, and much like the Iguanas, are often kept improperly which leads to sick, stressed, and often deceased animals.
These reasonably sized constrictors are the most popular snake species in the world. Coming in an ever-increasing variety of patterns and colors, and being slow moving and docile, there’s not much question as to why they are so popular. Usually maxing out at 5ft long, and preferring to hide most of the time, they do not require an enormous enclosure. They also only require feeding once per week (at most!). (more info can be found on our care sheet at junglebob.com)
These ever-popular colubrid snakes are right up there with ball pythons as far as popularity, docile demeanor, and easy care. Native to the United States (southeast), these snakes are far more tolerant to temperature changes than the tropical African native ball pythons and are therefore, that much hardier. They are more active than ball pythons and reach about the same lengths while staying much thinner.Snakes are still a commitment, with Corns and Ball Pythons commonly living 20+ years!
One of the most common questions we get is some variation of
“Do you sell cheap baby turtles that stay small? I want to get one for my child.” This is not a good idea on many levels. Number 1 being that no turtle stays “small”. Most will reach a length of at least 6” and all turtles and tortoises are technically illegal to sell when they are under 4”. Yet still we see then being sold in horribly small and incorrect setups. Red Eared Sliders are the biggest victims of this. They are produced by the thousands, sold for usually under $20, and destined to live in cramped, dirty, and incorrect setups for their entire life (which can be 50+ years). This leads to most of them being either neglected,
dropped off to a rescue (like us), or released into a local pond. This has been happening so often and for so long, that they now inhabit virtually everybody of fresh water in the united states. Which is a problem, as their aggressive dominant attitude hurts the native species in the area.
There are so many that need to be “rescued” that most turtle rescue organizations cannot even take them in anymore. Last, but not least, even in the perfect setup, they are messy animals and are more likely to transmit salmonella due to the fact that there is always some level of fecal matter and/or urine in the water.
All that being said, when someone inevitably asks that turtle question, our answer is to suggest something like a Russian or Hermann’s Tortoise. These are dry, land dwelling, vegetable eating animals that will max out at about 8” long, have a life span of 30-50+ years, and are far more docile and friendly than their aquatic counterparts. Makes cleaning and maintenance much easier, being that
they are just kept on a cypress mulch bedding which is easy to scoop and dispose of. That does not mean ALL tortoises are good pets, as most get extremely large, require enormous enclosures with proper temps and lighting, and can live close to 100 years. (more info can be found on our care sheet at junglebob.com)
That was a bit more than I had planned on writing today, but hey…there is a lot to say! With proper education and assistance, owning a cold-blooded pet can be a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike. I know for me personally, what started as a hobby, turned into a passion and a career. Owning these animals and caring for them has taught me more than any classroom ever could. With all the information out there these days, it is easier than ever to find out anything you want to know about these animals, I just caution you to look in the right places. Scientific articles, articles from breeders and experienced keepers are the best way to go. You can never learn too much! Even myself and our staff are still learning new things every day!
In closing, we are always here to help and answer any questions you may have and I hope this was helpful to at least a few of you. Thank you so much!
See you at the shop!