is a huge supporter of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers. Our goal is
to facilitate cooperation between government agencies, the scientific community and
the private sector in order to produce policy proposals that will effectively address
important husbandry and conservation issues. The health of these animals, public
safety and maintaining ecological integrity are our primary concerns.
The new Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) Small Animal Care Standards are an essential part of protecting our rights as pet keepers. With rights comes
responsibility, and in order to ensure that we are taking responsibility for the proper
care of our animals, we must have standards. With their mission to promote responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, foster environmental stewardship and ensure
the availability of pets, there is no one better to establish these standards than PIJAC.
SOTELO: Just like any other pet category, legislation’s always going to be creeping
around the corner. It’s unfortunate, but we have to deal with that and compensate
for the eventuality that something damaging to the industry does end up happening.
We’ve got an even bigger problem in local legislation, which can start a downhill
effect. And then we’re fighting one thousand different fronts instead of one front.
On the PIJAC [Small Animal Care Standards], it’s something that I have been
asking for for 10 years. And that’s great. That’s not a bad thing that I’m saying I’ve
been asking for this long, but I think it’s been a much-needed segment when you
look at self-policing and self-regulating. I think that is the way to go as opposed to
fighting an uphill battle.
As long as it’s done in a realistic and progressive manner, I think that what PIJAC
is doing—and a small part of that is what the United States Association of Reptile
Keepers is doing on the reptile side—is really towing the line. That’s really the way
to go, instead of what we have right now, such as the large constrictor issue in the
“The new Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council Small Animal Care Standards are an essential part of protecting
our rights as pet keepers. With rights comes responsibility, and in order to ensure that we are taking responsibility
for the proper care of our animals, we must have standards.”—Ashley Rademacher of Zoo Med Laboratories
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 90
Solid husbandry and savvy promotion help drive livestock sales and build
long-term relationships with customers.
BY E THAN D. MIZER
It can be resource intensive to offer exotics livestock for sale, but with the right approach, retailers can build a segment with inherent competitive advantages and decent margins.
The trick, according to pet specialty retailers, is to commit
the time and resources necessary to display show-stopping
herp and small mammal enclosures, in addition to educating
customers in the process.
First, retailers should focus on displaying exotics—and
herps especially—in appropriate naturalistic displays that
mimic their habitat in the wild, experts said.
“A very large part of maintaining healthy exotic livestock
is maintaining the environments they’re adapted to,” said
Jayzun Boget, assistant manager of the reptile and small
mammal department for Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich.
“That’s one of our core philosophies. The environments can
be part of the draw.”
This helps display herps more effectively, as well.
“At our store, you’ll see a lot more reptiles out and about
during their active period than you would when you go to
the typical big-box store, because we’re setting up these environments in a way that is not only very visually engaging
to humans, but in a way that makes the animal comfortable
enough to go about its normal behavior,” Boget said.
Other retailers reported having success using natural settings to help display reptiles. This approach can also work
with small mammals, to an extent, though fewer retailers employ this method but make an exception on the “exotic” side,
with species less often seen in the industry.
“With small mammals, we do lean more to stuff we car-
ry in-store—the igloo hides, the tree trunk hides, porcelain
dish, hanging water bottles and things like that,” said Trace
Campbell, manager of Animal Ark in Kingwood, Texas. “If we
have more exotic animals such as short tail possums, they’ll
get a fully arranged rainforest-looking enclosure with vines
wrapped around logs and things like that to make them feel
Maintaining species in aesthetically pleasing enclosures
also means having eye-catching subjects for images that can
be used to drive sales through social media.
“Facebook pulls a lot local activity into the store,” Camp-
bell said. “Instagram gives it a lot of national attention. If
you’re looking through our social media or our web-
site, something’s going to pull you to our shop, or
something’s going to catch your eye.”
Exotics have the advantage of being prominent in
young customers’ minds, thanks to modern media
and these species’ attractive, interesting appearances.
“I think that the increase in the popularity of rep-
tiles [is due to what] I call the Discovery/Nat Geo ef-
fect,” said Tom Herron, owner of Fins Feathers Paws
& Claws in Harleysville, Pa. “These kids grow up
watching nature shows with all of the critters, and
they’re fascinated by them. Then they come here and
they see them, and they just want to have one.”
Maintaining clean, present-
able and aesthetically pleasing
displays is extremely important
when it comes to selling exotics.
“Exotics display well, as
long as they’re healthy,” Her-
ron added. “An unhealthy an-
imal, no matter what, just gives
people a bad impression.”
This means it pays to prop-
erly train employees and go the
extra mile to ensure enclosures
are in top shape.
Every day, Boget said, staff
members check that every ani-
mal has what it needs to thrive.
If maintained properly,
these animals will sell them-
selves to a degree, retailers re-
ported, but staff members still
need to do some legwork.
“Education is key,” Camp-
bell said. “A lot of the animals
do sell themselves, but there’s
more to it than that. You’ve got
to explain the pros and cons
to both. Because it’s not only
about selling the animal, it’s
about making sure the animal’s
going to be well cared for.” P H O T O S