Opinions on pet store reptiles

I too bought my first and only snake at a mom and pop shop. He was 8 months old and had a RI and a developing spinal kink. Which the kink was not noticeable to my eyes, but remember untrained eyes. Now it is pronounced at almost 3 years of age. The vet also believes that he has some small deformities in his nose air ways witch make him more likely to get RI for no reason. Not to mention he was on pinkie MICE every week.


This is him a few days ago ^


This is him when I got him at eight months ^

PS He is a Hypo BI (Boa)

I do believe that there are some really good and hard working individuals that run reptile shop with passion and care.

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I really don’t find myself buying from pet stores ever again. my other snakes are from breeders, and from all of them I was able to meet the parents, interact with the snakes, and I even got access to their “records”(dob, feedings, sheds, movements, ect…)

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Would you be willing to share some details on that? I’ve always thought about working part time for a commercial pet store. Not because I support them, I don’t, more to give the reptiles there proper care and the customers who buy them proper husbandry practices.
I’m definitely interested to hear what you have to share, and you can hold back any details that you find inappropriate or incriminating to the said stores.

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From a veterinary perspective, I can offer up the intel (without specifics) that different stores, including those within the same chain, will vary massively with regards to:

  • The ability of their employees to convey accurate care requirements, both verbally and via caresheets
  • Their interest/empathy when it comes to caring about the reptiles being sold
  • How good they are at recognizing illness and seeking/authorizing veterinary treatment for sick animals of theirs
  • How thorough they are at treating their animals/following a dvm’s instructions

I was involved in the veterinary care of pet store animals (mostly reptiles and dogs) a LOT from 2005 to 2018. Even given all the variation, during that time I was never involved directly with any pet store that was adequately caring for and accurately marketing their animals (reptiles included), regardless of efforts/intentions of employees & management. Admittedly, I’ve never even been to a sizable store specifically for reptiles, so perhaps there are exceptions I’ve not been involved with. Back around '99-'03, I used to shop at 2 stores that seemed very knowledgeable, but I didn’t really have the skills/experience to recognize quality vs. deficient animal care at the time.

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Just a few things, off the top my head:
Gravely ill or injured animals denied vet care
exotic animals receiving care from dog & cat vets who didn’t know the first thing about them
Animals “euthanized” inhumanely and for unethical reasons
incompatible animals housed together
severe overcrowding
every form of negligent or incorrect care/housing imaginable
ignorant employees, management and owners
dishonesty to customers
illegal animals (native protected)
animals bought from terrible sources

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One example (NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART):

A juvenile Asian Water Dragon was housed improperly in a very stressful environment. As a result, he was constantly face-rubbing. I recommended housing changes but was denied because it was said that it would take up too much space for one animal, and make it harder for customers to see the animal. Eventually, he rubbed so much that his jawbones were exposed. He was also attacked by a larger cage mate and lost part of his tail, with the vertebrae sticking out. He was denied vet care. His ultimate fate was to be placed in a plastic bag and slammed against the floor until he was (presumably) dead. It is possible that he was actually placed in the freeze where dead animals were kept while he was still alive.

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Thank you for sharing those experiences. I think sharing those can bring some light to the new keepers as to why we should not support pet stores. I was aware of some of those bad practices, but your last post was very educational and revealing, that’s a shame. I definitely would not be able to stand for that if I witnessed something like that.

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This is a sad story but very relevant.

One of my first jobs out of high school was Petco, I worked there a full year before quiting. I will say that the care of the animals has a lot to do with the General Manager and Animal/Aquarium managers. If they are knowledgeable/care, the animals CAN be decently cared for, but in my experience that was not the case. My GM was only interested in costumer service and keeping labor down which resulted in the animals getting inadequate care and attention. Those working with the animals (myself included) were only educated on their care by fast food restuarant style training programs we did on the computer for a few hours that we weren’t even required to finish before we were responsible for their care. I was very interested in reptiles so I did my own research but most of my coworkers had no idea and I admittedly had little idea regarding the small animals (the rodents) or the fish as I didn’t do independent research on them.

I bought my first snake there, a pastel ball python. I wasn’t allowed any reptiles growing up but I was in my own apartment so I could finally get one and was very excited. Well. She and every ball python had Inclusion Body Disease. They started dying and no one at the store had any idea why. When mine started to exhibit symptoms I researched and realised she was going to die a terrible incurable death because the place I worked for purchased her from a terrible wholesale reptile mill and didn’t bother taking any of them to the vet. I took my girl to the vet and had her euthanized and quit about a month later. While I worked there I witnessed many unnecessary deaths and complete ignorance on proper care. The general consensus among the staff was that Petco policy was in place for a reason and that is just how things are run and its unfortunate but profits and costumers come before the animals.

I always try to tell people to please consider purchasing reptiles elsewhere. I have a modest little collection of ball pythons now, all from breeders, and they are doing fantastically.

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How did you come to the conculsion of IBD? Where any of them or yours tested for IBD and came back positive?

When I was researching her symptoms and reading through reptile forums it was only a guess but the vet did do a test after she had been euthanized and it was IBD. I had noticed she seemed unwell and kept lifting her head and corkscewing but I was also brand new to keeping ball pythons at the time and only had her a week before she died. She lost any function of the bottom half of her body it was completely limp and dark. She was also corkscrewing. It was five years ago now, but I remember spending a few frantic hours googling when I realised she couldn’t lift the bottom half of her body (you know when you pick up a ball and they wrap their tails around something for balance?
I vividly remember hers lolling limply as if she was trying to but couldn’t move it at all) before taking her to the vet. It happened pretty rapidly. If I had been more knowledgeable I might have realised it sooner as three other ball pythons at my Petco had been found dead in their tanks but the store didn’t bother to find out why they just wrote it off as baby reptiles being fragile.

Bruh. I went to a local pet superstore here they have 5-6 locations so originally a mom/pop shop but now big at least around Indy.

I can’t go in those anymore man. It’s so heartbreaking. Obviously I have a soft spot for reptiles but rows and rows of tiny puppy cages it’s so heartbreaking I hate it. I hate it so much. I had to run before I dropped 5 grand on all the mini schnauzers to get them out of there.

My family are mini schnauzer people, we got ours from my aunt who died of brain cancer suddenly 6 months later at age 40…he’s got diabetes and we are going to have to put him down soon and seeing those puppies just about broke me lol. Ughhhh.

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