Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Raising Reptile Awareness

Now more commonly viewed as cool, rather than creepy, it seems reptiles are an increasingly popular choice for people who are in the market for a new pet. Reptiles certainly do have some qualities that make them lower maintenance than some other types of pets: they don’t need to be walked, they don’t shed (at least not fur!), some reptiles need to be fed only once a week or so, and they generally don’t make much noise. 

That being said, reptiles are by no means maintenance-free pets. They come with their own unique set of needs and challenges. Most reptiles sold at pet stores are exotic species – animals that are not native to this area and instead have been transported here by humans over hundreds of years. The OHS believes that the best place for wild or exotic animals like reptiles is in their natural environment because it is very challenging to meet all of the needs of these animals outside of their natural home.

Reptiles often have very specific housing requirements in terms of light, heat, and humidity. These need to be monitored carefully and frequently to ensure your pet is comfortable and healthy in their environment. Many species of reptiles don’t enjoy frequent handling, so they have a tendency to become a bore for kids and adults who are keen to have an interactive or affectionate pet. 

Furthermore, many reptile species can live for 20 years or longer, making them a long term commitment. Some turtles can live to be 100 years old! Certain reptiles can grow quite large over time and will require larger enclosures as they age. For some larger species of reptiles, these enclosures can sometimes cost upwards of $500.00. Finally, a number of reptiles eat things that people don’t always enjoy keeping around the house, such as live insects or rodents. And, like any other pet, reptiles should be seen regularly by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy. This combination of food, enclosures, accessories, vet visits, and an impacted hydro bill can add up to quite a costly investment.

In addition to cats, dogs, and other furry and feathered pets, the OHS also receives reptiles that are brought to us as strays or owner surrenders. Although we don’t offer reptiles for adoption, we do work with community partners to find safe, appropriate placements for the reptiles we receive. As an animal welfare organization, we strive to educate the community about responsible reptile ownership in a variety of different ways.  One of the big highlights for campers during our “Off-Leash” day camp programs are visits from reptile rescue groups in Ottawa who help spread the message about the importance of reptile care and protection.

Our Rescue and Investigation Services team responds to calls and complaints each year regarding reptiles that are being kept as pets, many of which are not legal to own in Ottawa. Back in 2002, our officers removed over 250 exotic animals, many of which were reptiles, from a single townhouse here in Ottawa. Instances like these remind us of the importance of encouraging careful, informed decision making for anyone who is considering a reptile as a pet.

As part of National Reptile Awareness Day, we are encouraging anyone who is considering adding a reptile to their family to take the time to research the needs of these intricate species and ensure that owning a pet reptile is a commitment you and your family are ready to make.

We know there are many different reasons for seeking out a new pet for your household. To anyone who is considering a pet reptile, we encourage you to do your research to ensure you are making the best choice for your family. As you would with any other type of pet, you need to make sure you are fully aware of the commitment required to provide the right type of care to these fascinating, but delicate creatures.

Andrea Tatarski
Co-ordinator: Humane Education

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