So, you want to keep a reptile as a pet?

The Australian Reptile Park encourages responsible pet ownership, so please read the following first! Reptiles have very different requirements to those of most traditional pets, so you will need to consider the below information before purchasing your first reptile. Without an appropriate level of preparation and commitment, the novelty factor can quickly wear off, with the likely outcome being a neglected animal and a disappointed owner.

Reptile keeping is regulated in every Australian state and territory

Reptile keeping in Australia is a privilege, not a right. The keeping of reptiles as pets is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and the laws are subject to change. In most instances, licences must be applied for before a reptile is obtained, and records must be kept, with annual reporting required. All reptiles must be acquired from a legitimate source, and there are constraints as to which species can be kept, and in what circumstances. Therefore, the very first thing to do when considering acquiring a reptile is to familiarise yourself with the legal requirements within your state or territory.

The following links lead to the relevant wildlife agencies for each state and territory. Click to find out more:

Reptiles are not cuddly – they’re above all that fluffy stuff!

Although most reptiles may become tolerant of some forms of handling, they are not affectionate animals and do not crave human contact like dogs and cats. Although captive pythons are not inherently ‘aggressive’ towards their keeper, they can be quite defensive when feeling threatened or territorial, and many will bite. Many pythons become very food-oriented and will bite just about anything that moves – including the keeper’s hand. When that happens, it can take a great deal of time and patience (and blood!) to dislodge the python without injuring it.

Young pythons will grow – and before any hatchling is acquired on the basis of ‘cuteness’, an adult specimen of the species should be viewed to visualise their full size.

Show-offs don’t last

A small proportion of beginners acquire their first reptile for the wrong reasons: wildlife should never be maintained for the purpose of impressing friends, undertaking a practical joke of any sort, or providing an unplanned, unsolicited gift for anyone. Reptiles do not benefit from being carried around like an article of jewellery at the local shopping centre. Their use as an attention-seeking prop or as a demonstration of bravado belies any true regard the keeper purports to hold for the animal. Irresponsible keepers undermine community respect for wildlife while portraying the hobby in an exploitative light.

Reptiles can pass diseases on to their keepers

Without adequate attention to hygiene, reptile keepers can put themselves and others at risk of infection from a range of protozoa and bacteria, including Salmonella sp.

Keeping a reptile can be costly

The expense incurred in the purchase of a python is only the beginning of the costs that will have to be met – the most ‘up front’ of these being appropriate specialised housing of the reptile. Provision of food requires planning and can be costly. The keeper will need to either maintain a breeding colony of rodents or purchase frozen stock from a commercial source. In the interest of continued family acceptance of having a snake in the house, a separate dedicated freezer should be acquired to store rats and mice. Licensing fees are a factor in most states, and significant veterinary expenses may be incurred if health issues arise.

The decision’s been made… Now what?

If you have read the above, looked into cost, licensing, species and still want a reptile then below are some sites that we recommend that may be helpful. Enjoy your new pet!

For more information about reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park, visit our Reptiles page!