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Reptile Information

Reptiles as Pets: Hazardous to Your Health — And Theirs

An estimated 11 million pet reptiles—mostly turtles, lizards, and snakes—live in U.S. households, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. That figure, while far lower than for cats and dogs, means that about one out of every 25 households includes at least one reptile, and many have two or more.

High Maintenance Required

Although reptiles are marketed as low-maintenance pets, many families are overwhelmed by the level of care they require. Pet reptiles need special diets and habitats which require strict temperature and humidity control.

Pet reptiles are also are highly susceptible to infection and disease. In the wild, reptiles rarely come into contact with their own waste or uneaten food—a common occurrence for reptiles in captivity. To complicate matters, it is difficult for anyone other than experts to tell when they are sick. Even when you detect symptoms, veterinary care for reptiles can be hard to find.

When they receive proper care, reptiles can live for many years, outlasting a caretaker's interest in the animal, particularly a child's. Reptiles can easily become too big and dangerous to have at home. The iguana purchased as a six-inch long hatchling weighing less than a pound can grow to five feet in five years. Snakes like pythons and boas can grow large enough to injure or kill a person.

When reptiles become larger and harder to manage, they may be neglected, relinquished to shelters, or simply let loose. Many shelters are not equipped to handle these animals, and they have few options for placement. Pets should never be abandoned to the wild. Animals who are often die from starvation, exposure, or predation. If they live, they can endanger people, native wildlife, and the local ecosystem.

If you own reptiles, or intend to purchase one, please use the following to collect information regarding their care

Links to Reptile Care sites

Amphibian and Reptile Care Information - WNYHS