Opinions on pet store reptiles

to me, pet stores are a very common place for people to get their first reptiles(including me)

how do you guys feel about pet stores selling reptiles? the way it portrays them? the way they get cared for? or even how you get taught about their care/needs? id love to hear what some of you guys think about this topic!

I also got my first pet from a pet store. I think like smaller run pet stores it’s fine whereas big store chains (pet supplies, petco, petsmart, etc) usually get them from reptile farms where they breed reptile in mass numbers and breed for quantity not quality and there is sometimes inbreeding and a lot of them don’t get proper nutrients or vet care if they’re sick. They’re kind of like reptile puppy mills. I don’t know if they’re all like that though. There’s a major pet store near me and they sometimes have some unique morphs in stock that wouldn’t come from a pet farm because their breeding wouldn’t be controlled enough to keep a morph clean. Most of their animals look healthy and they have a vet that they take all of their new reptiles to. I think some stores support the reptile mills whereas others get them from responsible breeders (even within the same store chain) and small stores probably breed them their self.
About care/needs the store near me has care sheets on different animals that they have for sale and some other popular animals that they don’t even have in stock. When I read through the sheets a lot of them look accurate and they have proper enclosure size, temperature gradients, max size of pet, health problems, etc. However the main problem that I have with being taught about their care is a lot of stores recommend ceramic heat for reptiles when in fact a UTH would actually work better. Also the store carries some heat pads but no thermostat which I feel can be misleading and people might just plug it in unregulated and think it’s fine because they think if the store doesn’t have it then they don’t need it. I think a lot of the employees have good intent though and want to be helpful even if they don’t know the best ways to help. This is all mainly based off of the store near me.

1 Like

I think most chain pet stores aren’t great places to get a pet reptile simply because they often give incorrect advice about care and they generally don’t know any history or morph of the reptile. That being said, I have bought a snake from a pet store one time. It was an awesome morph for a very discounted price because the employees were afraid of him because he was nippy.

My first snake was from a local breeder and it was a great experience. For a person’s first reptile, I think a small time local, knowledge, and passionate breeder is the absolute best source for a beginner.


I have bought a few of my reptiles from pet stores. I would prefer not to, but with covid shutting down anything fun in NY I have not been able to get to an expo. I should make it clear that I am speaking about chain pet stores. Not specialized reptile shops. I dont think the big chain stores know enough about these animals to sell them. I think there should be limits to what they can sell. I was recently in a big chain pet store in my area and they were selling baby iguanas. I inquired just to see what the lady working the area would tell me about their care and there was no mention of how big they would get or the level of care that goes into keeping a reptile like that. I have also, on several occasions, had to speak to a manager about how some of their animals were being kept. I haven’t had to call the humane society on any shop yet because they have all been receptive to my input, but I totally would if I had to. I think that these big shops need to better educate their employees. Thats asking a lot for a minimum wage position though. I also hate when I go into a store and see them selling animals but none of the equipment you would need to care for that animal. I get that it happens sometimes that a shop may be sold out of this or that, but in my area it is a common occurrence that they are selling animals and none of the equipment needed for proper husbandry.

1 Like

@erie-herps The thermostat thing is a huge problem. No shop in my area that sells reptiles sells thermostats. I had to purchase all of mine online.

I’ve never been in a single reptile store that sells thermostats (I’ve been in about 5 all major chain stores) some of them sell heat pads but none sell thermostats.

the one place i see thermostats at is one of our local stores, and they REALLY overprice. $60 for one thermostat, and i think that is super unreasonable for someone trying to get into the hobby. I’ve gotten all of mine online for half the price, i really think pet stores get away with making things unreasonable prices because people just don’t know what to look for(new to the hobby specifically)

We have a small “ma and pop” pet shop here that is notorious for poor care. They seem more interested in selling puppies and gerbals than anything else. Which I assume is thier money maker. They have poor husbandry with the reptiles though. Before I realized what type of place this was I went to buy a green tree frog they had. He sadly was dead in the tank, Regardless of the horrible reviews on google alone somehow they manage to remain in business. They keep mostly Leopards, small bearded and a frog tank. Luckily they haven’t caught wind of crested geckos and exploited them like everyone else. I also have a Reptile shop near by and everything he has seems healthy and well taken care of. I guess it’s passion and responsibility and not caring only about profit. Which should come hand and hand with putting the animals needs first.

our smaller store is like that too, poor care standards. they currently have a juvenile red tail boa who caught my eye. i go to said pet store frequently for feeders(a whole different nightmare…) and about three weeks ago, i was looking at some of their snakes along side a little boy and his dad. the little boy pointed out that there was something in the snakes tank. when they left, i looked at the tank myself to see what was in it. it was the snakes regurgitated meal. someone else pointed it out and the staff did nothing about it. last week, i was back again. this time, they had another boa in the tank with the original. some of this stuff is just appalling, even from smaller stores

It’s so bad that I have been considering looking into opening my own shop. I have no idea where I’d even start with something like that, but in my area we have no shop for exotic animals. Its all the big chain stores. There are very few local breeders. I have only seen 3 around me on morph market. I just want to help spread the hobby and see our scaley friends thrive.

My local reptile store is outstanding. I have gotten most of my reptiles from them. Buuuuut, I did buy a leopard gecko a long time ago from petsmart. I won’t buy from them again, because of the issue with them breeding for quantity and not quality!

Edit: So, I definitely prefer the smaller exotic store (breeding for quality, more $$) rather than the big (breeding for quantity, less $$) inexperienced store.

Having worked in pet stores for a decade, including both large chains and beloved Mom & Pop, I can safely say that you should never buy a reptile from a pet store (I am not including reptile specialty stores in this, I have seen some good ones). If you saw a fraction of what I have seen, you would stay as far away as possible, and support these stores as little as possible.


They should require a license to distribute pets (if they don’t already) and have an evaluator come in at random times and check all of the animals for health.

1 Like

i think that’s a good idea to work with, it would really weed out the bad eggs. just sad overall that things like that have to be discussed.

mm, but we all make a giant pet store and help people learn about reptiles from actual reptile keepers

1 Like

I personally wouldn’t recommend ever buying your first reptile from a pet store, especially chain stores like PetSmart or Petco…

My first ball python, Delta, was bought from a local chain store called Pet Supplies Plus. This was on August 12th of 2018.

She was pretty small and scrawny when I got her, and they were feeding her f/t mouse fuzzies… once I figured out she needed bigger food, her growth shot up from there. She was around 100 grams if not less when I got her. I didn’t get a scale until about a month and a half later but the first time I weighed her she was 118 grams.

Here’s her now, around 850-900 grams or so. She’s been a slow grower but is one of our sweetest snakes and is not head shy for the most part!

I also bought a little pinstripe female from this same store, but she unfortunately just didn’t eat or thrive and despite trying all the tricks I could find online, she eventually just passed away on her own. Made me realize pet store snakes were not a good choice and since then have only bought animals at expos or on MorphMarket.
I’ve also bought some snakes from a local breeder.

we have a pet supplies plus here too. i think it might be a midwest thing. i can definitely say ours is even worse than our pet smart.

my first snake, a corn, came from a pet store. was in pretty good condition when i got her, despite being in a 5.5 gallon tank with 6 other hatchlings. oh how resilient corns can be

both my newest leopard gecko and my bp were both rescues that came from pet stores. my bp was incredibly underweight because what they recommended he needed to eat, was way too small for him. my new leo has massive temperment issues, his original owner was told not to handle him by the pet store( i was told this by the reptile director at my humane society). because of this, he has a pretty bad attitude and no social skills unlike my other geckos(no fault of his own, love him nonetheless)

We have a Reptile Specialty Store close to me how ever with covid they wont let you inside to look around but you can call and order what you want come to the door and they will give it to you so we tried this out because well it would be way closer to get feeders saving time and gas. Bad idea we walked up to the store and as we approached you could smell the foulness from there at the door of the business beside them it got so much worse the closer to the shop we got that I told he guy "cancel my order "I don’t want whatever that smell is in my house " He told me I was crazy and that stink is normal yea right took my money and drove 16 miles to the next place that sold feeders. Morale is if we keep giving these bad stores our money because its easier or cheaper we only encourage there behavior and in turn they will pass that off to new owners as the thing to do or way to act. Please be wise where you spend your hard earned cash if it don’t look right even to a new guy or gal it probably isn’t.

1 Like

the feeders im getting from a pet store are increasingly turning into terrible quality, the rats and such are fine, but pinkies and fuzzies are severely freezer burnt and straight up nasty, i don’t know how you could have a pet store and not value the wellbeing of the animals OR what you feed them. unfortunately i don’t have near enough reptiles to justify buying online right now

1 Like

I wouldn’t buy from a big chain store like petsmart/petco. Their animals don’t look the greatest and employees won’t know where they came from or what they have. The local reptile shop I get my feeders from have animals that look healthy and they know what they have. They even have the morph names of what they’re selling stickered to the enclosures.

I still prefer buying from a breeder. They’re more in tune with the animal they’ve directly produced than a third party, and they can tell you exactly what you’re getting. The parents, guaranteed genetics, knowing how the animal has been eating since day 1, what they’ve been eating, etc.

1 Like

This is the exact attitude I wish everyone had.

1 Like