A certain type of person prefers the cold comfort of a reptile over the warm affection of a puppy dog. Grant Crossman is one such person — he runs the travelling Ontario Reptile and Exotic Pet Expo and owns a menagerie of cold-blooded creatures, including a green-tree python.
The snake has no name — at least, none Crossman knows of — and that’s okay with him. Unlike mainstream pets, reptiles and other exotics are not bred to love you.
“Interaction is going to be limited,” he dryly notes.
What they lack in intimacy, they make up for in longevity. You and your box turtle are going to be living together for 30 to 40 years. Snakes have lived 40-plus years in captivity. On average, you’re looking at a 25-year commitment for a reptile/exotic pet.
“You don’t get the impulse purchases,” Crossman notes, adding that it’s an expensive hobby, too. “The animal might cost you $100, but guaranteed the minimal set up is about $400.”
Crossman has lived around snakes, lizards, amphibians, turtles, tortoises, birds and “pocket pets” for a long time, and has tips for those considering inviting a slithering creature home.
Can you provide the space? This can be tricky if you rent. “Reptiles are always on the bottom of the chain of respect and support,” he says, cautioning that many landlords won’t allow them.
Feeding is easier than it used to be, thanks to “mousicles.” “Everything is conditioned to be fed frozen-thawed rodents, so you’re not having to go grab Hammy the hamster and throw it in.”
The average customer at the expo is a serious hobbyist, male or female, between the ages of 25 and 40.
“You don’t get the stereotypes of long-haired and tattooed and young teenagers buying this stuff because it’s gone from 20 years ago, when the big item was a $20 iguana, to now, with $100 to $200 animals,” he said.
The focus on the expo is education, not selling. “We expanded it into the world of framed insects, because it’s a real novelty item. Insects and reptiles go hand in hand: one’s a feeder and the other one isn’t.”
Many municipalities adopted Toronto’s rules on exotic pet ownership. That means snakes no longer than three metres, lizards must be under two metres and no venomous animals.