September 1, 2014

As I was thinking about this article, Father’s Day was approaching [production on Pet Age starts a minimum of two months in advance] and it made me think about the legacy I’ll leave behind for my children.

Certainly they’ll never know what many of the things I grew up with were, but one thing I’d like to still be able to share with them and even my grandchildren one day, is the passion I have for responsibly keeping and breeding reptiles.

We are in a time right now where the word responsibility is dying and falling from our vocabulary but it is essential nonetheless. With more animal rights agencies being born every day and more and more sensational headline-hunting reporters on the street, it is up to us to operate and maintain good quality animals in good quality enclosures in good quality stores, or perish. Of course, it is also up to the hobbyist to continue the dedication on the husbandry side as well but it all starts at the source.

Part of being responsible includes sourcing the best animals available. We all know there are many wholesalers and breeders of reptiles and amphibians out there, but the number shrinks when you talk about quality ones. As a store owner or reptile buyer, and even as a hobbyist, one should always look for captive-bred animals first. These almost always will be parasite free and legally obtained.

That’s not to say good quality imports/wild-caught stock should be ignored but a preference should lie with captive bred.

Unfortunately, many of the more obscure animals are still not bred in any great numbers, which too often leads to poaching and smuggling. We, as an industry, cannot support this behavior.

I personally keep several different types of turtle and tortoise as well as some very rare rock iguanas and spiny-tailed iguanas. I’ve paid, in some cases, as much as three times the cost of “legal imports” for captive-bred stock just for the security reduced health concerns and the guilt-free conscience of keeping animals that were not pilfered from the wild. I think, in regards to stores, it’s much better to be famous as “that store” for a variety of legal and healthy animals than to be infamous as “that store” for the opposite.

Whatever you do decide to keep and sell, there simply needs to be an emphasis on the proper husbandry and making sure your customer gets the absolute best animal and products you can provide them with. This will help them in turn learn the value of the life they’ve just chosen to be responsible for and to stop looking at their animals as commodities.

Through being selective and responsible, we can avert and overcome most of the attacks thrown our direction by media groups looking to spice up their papers or broadcasts and the animal rights groups who don’t understand our community. The buck has to stop here, with us. We have to police ourselves.

If we don’t fix it, no one will and our children and grandchildren will know and learn less than us and for that and we’ll be responsible.

-Robert Stephenson

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