Pet Age spoke with Ken Foose, owner of Exotic Pets in Las Vegas, Nevada, about his extensive experience with exotic species, from monitors to tenrecs, and anything else a customer could dream of owning.
Q How has your animal husbandry, zookeeping and private captive breeding background helped you as a retailer?
A I try to pass down a lifetime of information and experience to my staff, hopefully making us the most informed store there is. Clients rely on us to give them the proper care information for whatever we sell—and things we don’t sell, too! And if we don’t know the answers right off hand, we find the answers. My experience also goes into our husbandry practices, assuring we keep animals in the proper conditions so we only offer the best specimens to our clients.
Q You’ve been in business for at least 25 years. How has the reptile pet space changed?
A Twenty-five years ago there were virtually no exotic animal regulations on the books in most states, cities and counties. Now there are pages of them everywhere… Most of these regulations are unfounded and evidence is even fabricated. More reptiles than ever are being captive bred—this is a great thing. On the other hand, there’s still a need to import specimens. But at the same time, as regulations become stricter, it becomes more difficult to locate quality captive bred animals.
Q What is your process for finding livestock suppliers?
A It’s taken years to find quality suppliers. I have the advantage of having networked with hundreds of people over the years. You really have to go out and meet these people in person, establish a relationship and even friendship. Finding suppliers right out of the gate is hard, but once you establish a working relationship things get really easy. I have dozens of suppliers that I’ve been dealing with for over 25 years. Most were met at reptile events such as the International Herpetological Symposium and other such venues.
Q What do you look for when hiring staff?
A Mostly I look for sales people. Having a love for animals is important, but not as important as how they interact with customers. I look for outgoing, talkative people to hire. They must be able to handle everything in the store from arachnids to large snakes, birds and odd mammals. Then, if they pass the animal part, I have them sing me a song at the top of their lungs. No shy people allowed here!
Q What are your best-selling reptile/exotic animal brands?
A For reptiles, our biggest seller outside of live and packaged food is lighting and bedding. We sell hundreds of heat lamps and UV lighting a week. Bedding is a major part of our business. In both of these lines, our biggest sellers are Zoo Med and Hagen products. We sell a lot of glass enclosures from both companies, along with terrariums from a supplier named Fujimoto Aquarium out of California. As for the warm blooded side, we also sell a huge amount of mammal and bird food for everything from opossums to hornbills. Most of our exotic mammal supplies come from a company called Exotic Nutrition, [and we sell] lots of Kaytee products, Marshall and lots of [products from] smaller companies.