Just one more.... How many of you have said this in reference to a reptile, a bird, a fish tank, a cat, a dog or other animal? I am generally speaking of reptiles here, but obviously collecting of animals as a hobby is something many people do. 100 snakes is probably not as big of a problem as 100 dogs, cats or birds would be! I mean in terms of space requirements, vet bills, noise level and mess. Snakes and to some extent other reptiles, are more easily handled on a large scale, but still time consuming. Of course, the reaction I get when I tell people I live with 100 or so snakes is pretty hilarious as you can imagine!

Many reptile people I know have large collections representing many different species. Is it something about going to reptile shows and seeing all the pretty color morphs and cool cage setups that makes a person want more and more? Do you realize you have a problem when you have no more available electrical outlets or wall space? When your rodent bill is more than your grocery bill? When you have to budget payments for a snakes you have purchased on vendor credit? When house shopping, your must have is a snake room? You think, well “I have a male and now I need a female...” The list goes on and on. Looking at Reptile Magazine, going to herp shows and pet shops and surfing the Internet are all avenues for feeding “the habit”.

For some it is not a problem, but for others it becomes one. When I go to reptile shows, I know longer feel the overwhelming need to purchase a reptile. It has become way easier to resist the urge! I think I have gone beyond the need to collect more and more and can just say “no”, believe it or not! I long ago, started feeling like “Kept” rather than the “Keeper”.

In fact, the last ETHS show, we managed to find a new home for our big tegu lizard“Rio”, give away my 2 latest rescue bearded dragon acquisitions and arrange a release of a wild caught legless lizard back where he came from. That is 4 less lizard mouths to feed! And now our Uromastyx lizard gets a bigger cage as a result. The day after the show, delivered the rescued racing pigeon that had been housed in cages in the kitchen and playroom, to the wildlife shelter when we realized we were not a suitable long term home for him.

Are we collectors? Or are we hoarders? What is the difference? When we hear on the evening news about someone who was raided and the media makes a big deal about a “house full of snakes”, do we wonder if we (as in reptile keepers with large collections) might become a target? Probably there are cases where the animals are not being cared for properly, but there I am sure there have been cases of someone being turned in because our hobby is not understood and we are perceived as a threat.

My kids and I are down to 9 lizards, 3 birds, 4 sand boas, 1 mouse, 1 rat and a betta fish. (Can't say how many snakes Wayne has for sure...) This is a manageable number. And compared to dogs and cats, I can go out of town for short periods and don't have to race home to take care of them on a daily basis and I am good with that.

A few years ago I saw this cartoon in Bird Talk magazine. I certainly identified with it and I eventually had 6 birds! Back in the 90's, the ETHS (East Texas Herpetological Society) had a speaker at one of the meetings whose talk was entitled “Herpaholics Anonymous”, which I thought was hilarious as I was just starting out in reptiles and had to have one of everything. The first National Reptile Breeders Conference in Orlando that we attended was back in 1995. And as we walked into the show with over 400 vendors with dazzling displays and animals we had never seen before from breeders from all over the U.S. we were like kids in a candy shop! Our mouths dropped open and we scattered with vague instructions to meet up later. Those were heady times! These days I still enjoy snakes shows, but mainly for seeing our friends that we have known since the early days when we were younger and "before kids" and they are more of reunions than animal purchasing ventures for me. (Can't speak for Wayne as THAT is a whole other topic!)



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    Kimberly Howell is a devoted wife, mother and daughter.  She loves her boys and man!  And of course, her many critters. Her professional life involves working with students with disabilities and being a pet sitter.


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