Reptile Show Responsibility

So a close friend and colleague came back from a pretty well-known reptile show and was explaining how vast the differences were from vendor to vendor. I’ve been to many reptile shows such as NARBC and Reptile Super Show, I even spoke at Canadian Reptile Breeders Expo. I have never seen what my colleague described at any of these venues when I have been in attendance. I should preface this that there were some saving graces at this particular show which my colleague mentioned by name. He explained to me that the people at Dramatic Dragonz cared more about the purchasers experience and the home that the dragon was going to more than the money. He also mentioned was also in attendance and made a good impression.

Now before going further, this conversation took place on Sunday. Tuesday morning another colleague aired his discontent on a similar subject via Facebook. John Hanson said the following

“It is obvious these ppl have no concern about the well-being of their animals and its all about the money. If you can’t spend the 8 dollars it takes to feed them 6 or 7 times and allow them to become established in my opinion you should not be breeding these animals you are a moron.”

According to the colleague I spoke with about the show they attended, Dramatic Dragonz didn’t offer any dragons that were under four months of age and a certain weight. While at the snakes had to be 6 months of age and regularly feeding on frozen thawed rodents. In the end, these two breeders cared more for the reptiles than the dollar signs they could get for them. This is called responsibility. A word which seems to be slipping away rather quickly in today’s industry of herpetoculture.

I was happy to see Brian Potter of NARBC actually online the same day and of course I asked for his input without revealing details of the other reptile show but asked him point-blank about how and why we don’t see the incidents of above happening at NARBC.
He had this to say

“I think ‘most’ people understand we have a responsibility to each other and to the animals to show them and treat them in a respectful manner that promotes the hobby/Industry in the correct way. Not all people of course ‘but’ most.”

Brian also mentioned that they (NARBC) encourage anyone in attendance to mention issues to them and they will address them. Prior to my colleague speaking about his discontent, another incident took place at one the shows that were organized by the same people who had done the show he attended. This incident was photographed and shared via the social networks, it quickly caught a lot of improper attention. The published photo was of a reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus) and a Tegu (Tupinambis sp.) in the same enclosure which wasn’t large enough for either to stretch out in. What’s worse is a close friend who was in attendance emailed the photo to the promoter asking in a professional manner for an explanation on why this happened. She has yet (months later) to get any response to this. She also confirmed that what my colleague saw at this particular venue is seen often at this particular show.
According to my colleague who attended the most recent show this is what he encountered.

‘Bearded dragons that look like they hatched on the drive to the show Caimans that mouths were taped shut and didn’t have enough water to cover them in a Rubbermaid tub, snakes that looked starved.’

This of course goes without mentioning the dressed up crocodilians which were in attendance as well at one of the shows which yet ANOTHER colleague attended. Now by dressed up, I don’t mean putting a Santa Claus hat on a croc and taking a photo. These crocodilians had their mouths taped shut and were dressed in human clothes for photo opportunities. Pants, t-shirts, hats, and sunglasses! I asked Shawn Heflick of Python Hunters what he thought about these types of shows.

“I think the main criteria for expos should be health, respect for the animals, education and safety. Clean enclosures, adequate temperatures, proper handling, safety protocols, education, conservation messages and a level of respect that focuses on the true magnificence of these animals…not the hype, not the spectacle, not the dog & pony routine with glitz and enough misinformation to fill a cruise ship, but instead the spectacular natural history, morphology, and behavioral characteristics that still hold me in awe after all these years.”

Honestly, I ask you, the reptile industry. Is this what ‘we’ want to portray to the public. Animals subjugated to our will (many would say broken) and selling animals which are too young and unestablished to an unaware public so we can make a quick buck. Maybe it’s time we take a hard look at what ‘we’ are doing when we do such a disservice to the public at large. Do we really want to sell reptiles to an unwary public who think they are getting a quality pet from an ‘expert’ when in reality they are not? Do we portray potentially ‘dangerous’ reptiles as cute and cuddly? This feeds on the public ignorance which ends up coming back on us with ‘pets’ being released into the wild or given up for adoption when the reality sets in that this is not what the uninformed buyer had in mind. Even worse, how many animals are suffering a slow death due to the buyer not being instructed properly. Shows that allow this should be ended and shamed for their practices which they obviously don’t care to address.

I for one will NOT be attending any show which isn’t NARBC, Reptile Super Show, or Canadian Reptile Breeder Expo or a local smaller venue reptile show.