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Exotic pets more high maintenance than most expect

Pets often given away after owners realize they are difficult to care for

Circus SideShow members after performing "Caravan of Creeps" at Club Eden on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Patrick Parenteau
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Reported by Natalia Buendia Calvillo

Local reptile connoisseurs say people are giving away their reptiles after discovering how high-maintenance exotic pets are.

Josh Burns or Burns The dragon, an instructor and co-organizer of The Circus SideShow Reptiles workshop, sits with a reptile on his shoulders. Photo by Natalia Buendia Calvillo

The owners of Circus SideShow Reptiles, who hosted a snake handling workshop Nov. 15, said they often get people dumping their scaly, cold-blooded pets on them.

Co-organizer Tristan Risk and her workshop partner have adopted four snakes, a bearded dragon and a roughneck monitor lizard — all from disillusioned owners.

“People know that you have these animals, that you care for them, and then sometimes you are the first person they’ll hit up when they are looking to rehome,” Risk said, adding that people renounce them during lifestyle changes, like pregnancy or relocation.

Vancouver SPCA research coordinator Erin Ryan said that the SPCA receives a number of unusual pets, including peacocks and chinchillas.

Unique purchases for the thrill

Some people buy them as a symbol to show off their wealth, she said, while others buy them for the novelty or the thrill.

“Kind of like the idea of ‘I’m so cool, I have this unusual pet,” said Ryan, who discourages owning exotic pets because they are high-maintenance, undomesticated and “take a lot energy a lot of resources, a lot of specialized knowledge.”

According to the SPCA, exotic animals are non-domesticated, non-indigenous wild animals, captured from the wild or bred in captivity. It is illegal to possess large dangerous exotic animals such as crocodiles, tigers or primates but it small unusual pets such as some reptiles, arachnids or chinchillas are allowed.

Penelope the pig stands in owner, Emily Seidel’s, backyard. Submitted photo
Research a necessity

Emily Seidal, 21, has a mini potbelly pig and said that researching Penelope’s caretaking ahead of time was essential.

“You need to be able to expect a lot of what it is [involved] prior because you won’t be able to find the information as easy as it is for any household pet,” she said.

She said Penelope has been different than regular pets.

“She is very scared of strangers; so, if you don’t know her very well, she will come up to you and she will bark, a ‘bark-oink’ that’s really loud.”

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