Ask the Exotic Pet Guy: Part 2

Hey Dopers, Since I’ve been receiving a lot of PM’s lately asking for advice, I thought I’d open up a new " Ask The" thread for anyone who has a question.

So for those who don’t know, I used to co-own an exotic pet store and dealt with all manner of wild beasties. My specialties are in reptiles, amphibians, and fish; but I also know a great deal about exotic mammals and some on birds. All types of questions are welcome. Considering a pet? Ask away! I’m happy to give out impartial opinions and advice.

So, how long have you been an exotic pet and are your oeners nice to you?

No questions at this point, but I’ll just mention that your previous thread was an absolute classic.

Well Nashiitashii certainly tends to all my needs well so I’d say that I’m very well kept thank you.

Thanks. I’m actually surprised that I haven’t gotten a few yet. I’ve had a recent slew of them in my PM box.

From your last thread, I got the impression that you worked VERY hard to make sure that no animal left the store unless the buyer was properly equipped - both in terms of possessing the appropriate gear and the necessary knowledge - to care for the animal. Even with this precaution, did you ever have to deal with a buyer who got an animal home and then changed his mind? If so, was this common, what kind of reasons did buyers have for returning animals (too hard to care for, not fun enough, etc.), and how did you generally handle this (take it back no questions asked, try to work the owner through any “issues,” etc).?

How can I clean the gunk out of an outdoor pool, 12’ x 12’ x 3’ without killing the Central Newts that have taken up residence?

Oh sure. No matter how much time you spend with people you always have to deal with the occasional cases of “buyer’s remorse”. We addressed this with a multi-prong attack. First and foremost we made certain that everyone knew the return policy. We only guaranteed the health of our stock for 24 hrs. Mostly this was because once it left our care we really had no idea of how it was treated. Education was key to ensuring that the new owners were properly prepared. We also made it clear that any returns done after this period were strictly at my discretion and that there were NO refunds. If a client couldn’t put on their big kid underpants and live with their choice then they were not ready to have one of our animals join their collection.

Of course there were a few who would bring something back despite all this and I would usually try to work something out with them so that they would go away satisfied. We would always accept the animals back and place them into the quiet room for a new round of quarantine. Sometimes it was something as simple as needing to do a little re-education, and I was on call during business hours to take phone questions from clients.

Well here’s the problem: The newts like the gunk! The aquatic adults use it as cover and as a place to hunt for food. Assuming that you can be bothered to feed them, you can manually clean the pool with a net or rake and then replace the gunk with plastic plants or a variety of attractive aquatic live plants. Algaes can be controlled naturally with a variety of products like a bale of barley straw, or adding a small circulation pump to keep the water moving about. The bad news is that newts like most amphibians are easily disturbed by changes in their environment and any real action on your part might make the pond inhospitable to them.

The most important thing is to ensure that the water quality remains excellent for them. Following in importance by a selection of cover, and adequate food source.

The plants are in containers. I’ve seen the newts sitting on anacharis (sp) just under the surface. Is there a best time of year to net dead leaves off the bottom?

Early spring, During the winter the newts go into a hibernation of sorts. I wouldn’t want to disturb their habitat during that period as they might not have the energy to arrange themselves back into the proper temperature gradient.

If you live in warmer climate that doesn’t freeze, or only does so for a few brief days; then any time should be adequate.

In your opinion, why do people want (as “pets”) animals that are capable of killing their owners? I mean, things like poisonous snakes, spiders, centipedes. It seems to me that having such a dangerous animal in a house is fine (as long as the owner is aware of the risk)-but what about other people? Like small children.
Would you sella poisonous snaketo a guy who has a 3-year old child at home?:eek:

There a number of reasons for wanting to keep a venomous species, some more admirable than others.

Macho Factor- Probably the dumbest, but the most common reason, These people see having a dangerous animal as a symbol of power. It’s a “cool factor” dynamic going on. These are also the people most likely to be killed by their animal through accident or handling error. In Florida, keeping a venomous reptile legally requires a special permitation that requires 1000 documented hours of training. If a client could not provide this documentation then I would not sell. Technically speaking, to keep the deadly insect species also requires a venomous arthropod certificate, but it is a little enforced rule. We just kept a copy of their ID to ensure that the customer was 18 or older to relieve us of responsibility.

Breeding program- These keepers are interested in propagating a species for a variety of reasons including financial recompense, providing the community with healthy captive bred specimens, improving the population of threatened or endangered species, or perhaps interested in breeding color mutations of the species. Provide a permit and we’d happily sell you a cobra.

Husbandry interest- Related to the breeders, these individuals were interested in expanding the available knowledge in keeping rare or infrequently kept venomous species. They were often involved in writing papers for submission to herpetology journals. These type of keepers have actually been responsible for establishing national guidelines for the proper maintenance of difficult venomous species.

Collectors- These clients were just interested in acquiring a single specimen or pair to enjoy. They simply wanted to have the experience of watching the animals go about their business.

Technically, in FLorida one must provide an enclosure that has a locking door or lid to house a venomous species in. If these restrictions are met it is impossible for an animal to escape from it’s habitat; it is keeper error if it manages to get away during a cleaning or feeding. Venomous species tend to be shy, and contrary to popular belief, reluctant to bite. Most of the deadly animals we kept were quite good natured and could be held if someone was stupid enough to try it. When properly managed the actual danger is quite small. I’d certainly sell to someone with children. There is an expectation that they would provide security comparable to that of poison or other dangers to little hands. It is the responsibility of the individual, not the state or myself to ensure the security of a legally kept private animal.

Hi, thought I’d bump this because I just ran into this piece of newsfrom Arlington, Texas.

The article speaks of nearly 27 thousand animals being confiscated. Is this a larger-than-usual wholesaler or are most exotic pet wholesalers this size?

I’ve seen that happen to feeder mice in a well intended pet store.

Can you tell some more stories about your experiences over the years?

Have you ever gotten unruly or difficult customers? How did you deal with them?

Besides wolf girl, do you have any other stories about strange requests or off the wall reason for pet purchases?

What is the largest sale you’ve ever made?

Bella hated tupperware (Why?) Do you have any stories of other animals with interesting quirks like her?
Exotic pets are a niche market, was it difficult establishing your clientele?

  • ::: raises hand ::::* Question!

My husband recently captured some rodents in our house. We weren’t quite sure what they were, only that they weren’t the typical mouse colors of grey and black you see around here. At first we thought they were gerbils, but upon closer examination they are, it seems, deer mice

Any special care needed? We’re planning to keep them until spring, then release them at a local nature preserve about 7 miles away from us. They’re relatively tame for a wild animal. We have them in a big clear box (with air vents), pine bedding, water, hamster/gerbil/small critter food mix, and an exercise wheel.

There’s at least a couple more running around the house. We’d like to catch them all, although personally I don’t care if it’s alive or dead my husband is the softy who wants doesn’t want to kill anything if he can help it.

Not to tread on AcidLamp’s expertise,…but…Holy Crap!!

Get rid of them ASAP. Deer mice are natrual reservoirs and asymptotic carriers of Hantavirus.

Hantavirus is serious business… we lost a grad student becasue he has trapping and studying deer mice. It’s deadly and there’s no treatment.

That is WAY larger than usual. Even breeders don’t usually have a collection of that scale. It’s larger than many zoos!

You’ve set them up just fine, but as helix1047 notes, they are carriers of the hantavirus, as well as many other diseases. Be very careful and maintain clean conditions utilizing handwash both before and after playing with them.