Not everyone has to take a trip to the zoo to see unusual lizards, snakes, and frogs. Millions of people in the United States keep exotic reptiles and amphibians as pets. The term “exotic pets” describes animals, usually from other countries, that haven’t been domesticated.
Cities and states make their own laws about which animals people can keep as pets. In New York City, for example, residents aren’t allowed to own many types of exotic lizards or big snakes like pythons and anacondas.
Many people argue that owners often don’t know how to properly care for exotic pets. Most reptiles and amphibians from warmer climates need heat lamps that have to be closely monitored. Others, especially big snakes, require expensive large tanks or cages. Many of these animals suffer in their new homes. A study released in October by researchers at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in England found that 75 percent of pet reptiles and amphibians die in their first year.
However, other people say there are many positives to keeping exotic reptiles and amphibians as pets. For one thing, most of them make less of a mess and need less space than dogs and cats do. Frank Pasmans is a veterinarian and professor at Ghent University in Belgium. He says responsible people who understand what they’re getting into should be allowed to own reptiles and amphibians.
“If you allow people to keep dogs or cats, you can also allow people to keep reptiles and amphibians,” he says.