Before You Buy Reptiles from a Pet Store
Common Pet Store Chains
Petsmart is the leading pet store in the United States. You can find a variety of reptiles and reptile products.
PetCo is a popular pet store in the U.S. here you can find reptiles and products that suit your needs.
PetLand is popular amongst many. It gets many of its reptiles from local breeders, but it has a smaller supply of products.
Reptiles have found their way in many homes in America these days. People own reptiles varying from ball pythons to Burmese pythons. leopard geckos to giant day geckos, and bearded dragons to iguanas. Reptiles can be found at many and most petstores, ranging from the large retail corporations to the small local petstore. They have become a popular pet for many to have.
Reptiles are appealing for so many reasons, some of which include aesthetics, simplicity, and intrigue. Some reptiles are solely look-at pets, whereas others can be handled with care. Some reptiles need many various husbandry requirements, whereas others will survive without.
I will look at purchasing reptiles from retail stores from three different views: the customer wanting a reptile, former large retail petstore employee, and experienced reptile owner and breeder.
I, also, want to make it clear that by using the term, "retail petstore" or "retail reptile" I am referring to larger petstores, versus the smaller locally owned stores.
Most people who want a reptile want something cheap and convenient. In this case, retail petstores are the ideal place to go. Most of the time petstores will carry the top selling reptiles such as leopard geckos, bearded dragons, iguanas, and ball pythons. Most petstores try to keep the simpler and better beginner reptiles in stock all the time, which is great for the customer who just wants a pet leopard gecko or bearded dragon.
The customer walks in, requests help in the reptiles, picks out the individual reptile or choice, and purchases tons of supplies. Then, the customer goes home to set everything up. Nice and simple. Right?
There can be big problems with purchasing reptiles from retail petstores. Just because it's quick and simple, doesn't mean that it's always the best choice. I will further discuss the cons to retail reptiles in a moment.
But, for the most part the customer had a pleasant experience of purchasing his/her first reptile.
THE FORMER EMPLOYEE:
As a former employee of a large retail petstore corporation, I want to add in a few tidbits. I will not name names as to wholesale companies that the reptiles were acquired from or the retail company that I worked with.
With the very first shipment of reptiles, I quickly recognized the name of the wholesale company, and vaguely remembered hearing bad things about the company. I did some research and found out that the particular wholesale company is prone to sending animals with various, and multiple parasites. This is something that many customers are NOT aware of when buying from a retail petstore. Buying from a retail petstore you never really know what you're going to get.
Even though the reptiles are 'vet checked,' it's not true. Reptiles do not go to the vet unless they were previously sick, which is, also, not told to the customer when he/she purchases the reptile.
Reptiles from Breeders
Forum is composed of many hobby breeders, reptile owners, and other people interested in reptiles. Great forum for gecko species.
- Reptile Rooms
Reptile Forum consisting of gecko, lizard, snake, amphibian, and chelonian (turtles/tortoises) owners.
- Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care
Great info on various reptile species, illnesses, and other various reptile related info are provided here.
My hobby breeding website. Caresheets, Feeder Insect Info, FAQs, Links, etc.
EXPERIENCED REPTILE OWNER AND HOBBY BREEDER:
I want to start this viewpoint with a little information about myself. I've been researching, housing, and breeding reptiles for 8 years. I researched leopard geckos and bearded dragons for two years before I finally received one leopard gecko (Banon). Banon was followed by another retail petstore leopard gecko, retail bearded dragon, and breeder bearded dragon, and so on till the present day, where I currently own 9 leopard geckos, 5 African fat tail geckos, 2 crested geckos, 2 bearded dragons, and 1 ball python, amongst many furry friendly animals (i.e. mammals), and 2 dogs.
I would, also, like to go over a brief list of what I have acquired via a retail petstore and its status now...
- 2 leopard geckos- 1 alive and healthy, 1 dead (sickly from the start)
- 2 African fat tails- both dead (both had parasites; I took one to a vet, but still didn't make it)
- 1 bearded dragon- alive but sickly with severe MBD from near day one
As a side note, all the reptiles that I have acquired from breeders, are all still alive and well.
The main problems with purchasing retail reptiles include:
- Unknown health history of parents
- Unknown health history of individual reptile, unless the retail petstore had it for a while and can guarantee its health
- Unknown breeding and genes (could be inbred, which can cause severe health concerns as well as temperament concerns)
- Improper housing before and while at the retail petstore, which can cause minor and sometimes acute health problems
In my experience I have had better luck paying a little more, and received a top quality reptile that I KNOW has (1) great family health status, (2) great health status of its own, (3) known breeding, and (4) no inbreeding.
When Choosing A Reptile
I don't want to say that you should NEVER go to a retail petstore to purchase a reptile. If you check for all signs of good health, you just may get lucky.
Check for signs of healthy reptiles:
- Clear eyes
- Clear nose
- Plump belly and tail
- No scratches
- Old stool (to check its consistency- runny, solid, etc)
If you're really interested in a reptile, do your research FIRST! Check online forums, ask questions to other reptile owners, and just plain read up!
You do not want to rush into purchasing the first reptile that you may be interested in, as you may get a reptile with the following symptoms, which can sometimes be very slight or very prominent.
- Sunken eyes
- Discharge from the eyes, nose, and vent.
- Protruding hip bones
- External blemishes (scratches, scabs, spots)
- Bone kinks (tail, spine, pelvis are more common)
- Hard mass under the belly (impaction or retained eggs)
- Retained shed
Talk to breeders, go to reptile shows and expos. Have fun with the experience, because, trust me, reptiles are different than most other animals in the pet industry. By going to reptile shows and expos, you will learn a lot by talking to the various breeders and hobbiest, as well as given a chance to see and experience many different species of reptiles.