As I write this, I am sitting keeping vigil over a dying dragon on my birthday, crying.   These beautiful, sweet dragons die because someone paid money for them, bought as a pet and then couldn't be bothered to feed or care for it.  This dragon was surrendered to the rescue but it was too late for her to be saved.   She had no faith in me to care for or help her, and she was resistant to all care from the first day she came into the rescue.  She knew she was dying and had given up long before I met her.  She had to be encouraged to eat, but she never really wanted to eat.  I believe she just wanted peace, and even the comfort of rescue and the promise of rehabilitation came with a certain amount of pain and she didn't want any part of it.   I am letting her die in peace and she is doing this quietly. 

This never should have happened!   What is it about humans that think just because we have a dollar burning a hole in our pocket, that we can purchase whatever we wish and then treat it however we want?   How can this go unpunished?  Surely there is someone above watching and taking notes.   There must be some penance for the crime of knowingly making an animal suffer just because you can, or just because you are too busy or callous to notice that it needs care or that it needs help.  I can't imagine living in a world where this level of cruelty and indifference can exist without some karmic consequence. 

Shame on the people who buy creatures on a whim and then can't be bothered to research and provide the things that it needs to be comfortable, happy and flourish.  Shame on the pet stores and reptile stores that continue to make a dollar selling reptiles that they cannot explain the proper care of.  And shame on the breeders who think they can make a fast buck breeding dragons and keeping them in poor conditions. 

I keep saying if I see another bearded dragon breeder with a garden thermometer stuffed in the corner of a viv I am going to.....what.....?  What can I do?  You try to educate people and they won't listen.  Is it really that much to buy an accurate digital thermometer with hygrometer and monitor your dragons temps and humidity?  Is that too much to ask?   Or is it too much to give them a safe and clean substrate?   Evidently it is.  Breeders are supposed to be the example, the teachers, the leaders of the industry.   I see so many crimes of people who call themselves breeders. 

And what of the reptile wholesalers and flippers that I see at ReptiCON with unhealthy dragons who are cold and miserable, clearly dehydrated and not fit to be sold.  And you mention that to them at their table and they have the nerve to brush you off as if you are bothering them.  They can't even be bothered to give the animals they have for sale decent conditions.  I was at ReptiCON Savannah, GA this past weekend and saw one of the reptile sellers with two adult dragons and three turtles in a 10 gallon tank together and the turtles were scratching and clawing at the face of one dead looking dragon, trying to climb over the top of it.  I ask the man if the dragon is alive and he says 'Yep' and can't be bothered to speak to me.   He didn't even look at the dragon.   He made me sick, and I felt sick at ReptiCON for not monitoring the health of the dragons for sale there.  Fully dehydrated monitors barely moving in one room and dead dragons in another, and everyone laughing and talking as if this was the greatest social event.   I left nauseated. 

I hope for every sin against these reptiles there is some payment in the end of it all.  Maybe St. Peter will have this on the list - cruelty to animals should get you some serious time in purgatory.  These dragons can't help themselves.  They can't turn up the heat or hunt their own bugs.  All they can do is lay at your mercy hoping you will take the time to care. 

What of it?  What can you do to change this?  Is there anyone out there who sees what I see?  Is there anyone who cares?   Is there anyone who will take the time to speak up?

RIP Rocky and Felix.   I will speak up.  

...are the true keepers.  It's the truly great reptile keepers who  know what it takes to keep their pets in top health, and under optimal conditions.  It takes some effort, too.  Their environment requires monitoring, much more than a house cat's does.  Temperatures, humidity, calcium...all of these things are vitally important to keep a reptile alive in captivity for more than a few years.  Savannah monitors that should otherwise live 30 years are dying at the age of 10 in captivity, and due to substrate humidity errors.  Bearded dragons are acquiring metabolic bone disease because their UVBs are not being changed after 6 months.  Anoles are drying up because they are not given 80% humidity.  The decision to keep reptiles should be followed by a period of intense reseach of all aspects of keeping that species prior to purchase.  There are a lot of factors that need to be considered before the purchase including what kind of reptile you have the time for, how much money you can spend on your new pet, and how much space you can give it.  Spur-of-the-moment, or 'umpulse buys.' are often the precursor to neglect, and the new owner often remains unaware of basic care unless they choose to research.  Even then, people will blame their PetStores for the neglect or resulting disease, saying they didn't give UVB because the PetStore didn't sell it to them.  As much as we do feel the PetStores owe us correct information, ultimately it is the purchaser's responsbiliity to thoroughly research the species prior to purchase.  In the end, it really is people who understand their reptiles who are the true keepers.


    Shannon is the owner and operator of Sweet Dragons Rescue & Rehab.  The most important thing a reptile keeper can do is share information and help others to learn about their reptiles, and that is the reason this site and blog exists.


    March 2013
    January 2013