America’s newest pet craze leaves millions of animals misunderstood and mistreated-right from the ge

Most reptiles are inexpensive. Some are downright cheap. This is why many reptile owners are unwilling to spend the money necessary to properly house and feed their reptiles, or provide them with the veterinary care they require. Comments such as “I’m not spending $50 for a light and fixture!”; “Why spend any money at the vet? It’s just a $10 turtle – if it dies, it dies!”; “I’m just a teenager. I don’t have that kind of money”; and, “It’s my kid’s responsibility, not mine” are too often heard by those of us doing reptile rescue and education.

As with other pets, the cost of a reptile is usually the least expensive part of keeping one. The initial outlay includes an enclosure, special heating and lighting, substrate, essential furnishings, food and water supplies, nutritional supplements, housing and food for prey insects and veterinary visits with parasite testing and treatment. Ongoing monthly expenses include cleaning and disinfecting supplies, new substrate, food and electricity.

How does this affect your wallet? The initial habitat setup for a $10 green iguana hatchling will cost from $250 to $300, including an enclosure he will outgrow by the end of his first year. An anole, which retails for about $4, has less-extensive requirements than a green iguana. Nevertheless, a basic anole habitat setup includes a 20-gallon enclosure, a UVB-producing fluorescent Vita-Lite®, a basking light, a nocturnal heat light, an undertank heating pad, thermometers, soil and gravel, potted plants, a log or branch for basking and sundry other items such as crickets, a tank for the crickets and cricket calcium supplements and food. Total cost, exclusive of monthly expenses: $236.

Author / Melissa Kaplan

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"Sparky" one of SJEWR's resent rescues

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