By the Numbers: PETA Warns Holiday Shoppers Away From Buying Reptiles

For Immediate Release:
December 18, 2020

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

For the holiday shopping season, PETA has compiled a guide that shows, by the numbers, why no one should purchase snakes or other reptiles as “pets” or gifts.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • At least 75% of the more than 4 million reptiles—including 1,150,000 snakes—kept in human homes in the U.S. die within one year because it’s simply too difficult for consumers to meet these animals’ complex needs.
  • Reptiles require time-consuming and costly care, including an appropriate species-specific diet (which may require live food sources to be kept on hand), carefully regulated temperature and humidity levels (which can drive up electric bills), specialized lighting, and enclosures that are expensive but can’t adequately replicate the animals’ natural habitat.
  • In nature, pythons can reach lengths of up to 29 feet, and it’s been documented that wild pythons can travel as far as 22 miles in 75 days. But many snakes sold as “pets” are confined to cramped tanks, some only half the length of their bodies.
  • In nature, red-eared slider turtles can wander up to 5.5 miles from water to find suitable habitat, search for a mate, or lay eggs. In captivity, they’re often kept in small aquariums.
  • Reptiles are a very long-term commitment: Snakes can live for decades, iguanas can live for more than 20 years and grow to be more than 6 feet long, and geckos can live for 30 years.
  • In one survey, veterinarians estimated that the needs of 47% of exotic “pets,” including reptiles, brought into their practices were not met and 89% said that these animals most often lack a suitable environment.
  • Experts believe that more than 70% of exotic animals in the “pet” trade die before they even reach stores. A PETA investigation into one major reptile dealer revealed small drawers containing maggot-infested, starving, and dying snakes and snakes’ rotting carcasses.

“Studies show that the stress of captivity alone compromises the welfare of these animals. There’s simply no humane way to keep reptiles confined to a glass tank,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Reptiles are wild animals, not ‘starter pets,’ and PETA is urging everyone to keep them off their wish lists.”

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