Reptile Rescues: Friend or Foe?
Recently a friend and customer of mine with a particular interest in Asian Ratsnakes contacted me about his experience in attempting to adopt a trio of blue Beauties from Colorado Reptile Rescue.
Like several other asian species, the blue beauties are in danger of suffering from problems due to inbreeding. By adopting this trio, not only would the snakes themselves be provided with an excellent home, but his breeding group would receive some fresh blood enabling him to better provide unrelated offspring to future keepers.
However, once the rescue knew he intended to use the snakes as breeders, he was flatly denied. To even be considered, a $10 application fee per snake was required. It was stated that this fee was non refundable, but nowhere on the application or website can be found mention that breeders were automatically disqualified from adopting. So basically he gave the rescue $30 to tell him no when a simple statement of policy would have saved their time, and his money.
Excerpts from email correspondance with CoRR:
CoRR does not support the breeding of reptiles when there are so many
who need homes, regardless of the species or rarity.
Please let me know if you would like a refund of your $30.
The last email sent to CoRR went unanswered, and as of this writing, the offer to refund the $30 application fee (made nearly a month ago) has not been honored.
*** Update: After approximately 60 days and being informed of the intent to dispute the charges CoRR did issue a refund of the application fee.
Apparently in the eyes of many of these reptile rescues we as breeders are viewed as the enemy, the perpetuators of the problem of unwanted and neglected reptiles.
I understand that there is a problem with abandoned herps, particularly certain species such as iguanas, burmese pythons, and sulcata tortoises. In some of these cases breeding production does outpace the demand from qualified keepers. Note the word qualified. There is no shortage of people wanting a burm, but only a relatively small percentage of these are actually capable of caring for these snakes for their entire lives.
The fact is however that this is only true with certain select species, and is most certainly not true with the blue beauties . To lay the blame for the numbers of unwanted reptiles on the breeders because they produced them is unreasonable and unfounded.
Breeders do not create demand, they fill it, and if they did not fill it, nature would. The demand itself exists regardless of the activities of breeders. If 50% of all breeders stopped producing reptiles, it would only result in the increase of importation and wild collection.
I see many of these "reptile rescues" talking about the burden on them to try to save all these poor neglected animals. How they can barely pay their bills as a result of vetrenarian treatent, the associated costs of rehab, and the day to day care of the animals in their charge.
They then refuse to allow anyone who may possibly breed these animals to give them a home, thereby ensuring that their load is not lightened.
Some require the prospective adopters to sign contract forms that are so restrictive they undoubtedly cause many fully qualified keepers to refuse to consider adoption merely to avoid the hassles. I read one adoption contract from the VA Reptile Rescue, that all but turned the adopter into a bonded servant of the rescue, requiring an extensive list of things from the adopter, some reasonable, some absolutely not so. Things like ensuring the rescue's authority to inspect the premises and/or confiscate the reptile at any time, up to and including filing a lawsuit against them for the return, the basic retaining of ownership by the rescue preventing you from selling or otherwise relocating the animal, even a few years later, without express consent from the rescue.
Many people applaud the efforts of these self afflicted martyrs of the reptile world and their selfless devotion. Personally I have never harbored any great admiration for them. In the past I have regarded them with indifference. If they chose to enslave themselves to the task of saving the world's unwanted reptiles, that was their choice. It's a noble act, at least on the surface, but the full time pursuit of it is unreasonable.
It is instances such as the one that brought about this paper however that has brought about an increasing resentment and suspicion toward these self appointed saviors of reptiles. After all, why not? They obviously resent me. As a breeder I am part of the problem, right? If it weren't for those such as myself so selfishly bringing more of these unique creatures into the world, then there wouldn't be any left to abuse would there? This twisted logic is reminicent of many left wing political acivists who believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves, and is amazingly similar to the garbage spewed forth from the HSUS and their equally flawed reasoning. The HSUS wans to end dog breeding and promote adoption only, see the similarity? Both would result in a decline of keepers and an eventual end of the pet keeping entirely due to lack of availability.
Responsibility must be laid where it belongs. Reptile breeders are no more responsible for the actions of irresponsible keepers than a car dealership is responsible for the actions of a drunk driver.
They, in their vast wisdom, have proclaimed themselves to be the authority in determining who is and who is not worthy of keeping reptiles, and since I am a breeder I am automatically disqualified.
Who is qualified though? I submit that, in the opinion of many of these rescues, nobody is. How do I draw that conclusion? Lets look at the whole picture.
All reptiles in captivity come from one of two sources. They are either collected from the wild or they are born in captivity.
I'm going to presume that these people are against wild collecting. I believe that this is a safe assumption. If there are so many unwanted herps now, why would they support taking more from the wild?
They are apparently against captive breeding as well. They refuse to adopt an animal to someone who intends to breed it, so this fact is demonstrated.
How can they support the keeping of reptiles when they condemn the only two sources that provide them? Simply put, they can't. If it is their desire to prevent captive propogation, and are against wild collection, then it must be that they are not in favor of people keeping them at all. If they claim to be, then how would they propose prospective keepers go about obtaining the reptiles. It is obvious that the species people want to keep are rarely available for adoption. Not everyone has any interest in keeping an iguana or a burmese python, but in the views put forth by the rescues, you shouldn't want or be able to keep that gila monster when so many iguanas are in need of homes.
These anti-breeder rescues may be concerned with the welfare of the reptiles, but they certainly are not concerned with the hobby itself, or those who enjoy it.
The more I look into the operation of many reptile rescues, the more I begin to develop strong suspicions of their true feelings. It is no secret I am a strong opponent of the HSUS, PeTA, the ASPCA, and other similar groups. In recent months we have been seeing many people involved with keeping reptiles, some formerly considered cornerstones of the hobby, who actually harbor similar ideas as these groups. Any good achieved by these people in respect to helping individual reptiles is offset and negated by the desire to see reptile keeping either eliminated or restricted only to those who they deem qualified.
I cannot tolerate people who would see an end to an activity I have devoted over a third of my life to. Even less can I tolerate those who would see it ended while putting forth the appearance of trying to make it better. These subversive attitudes from within our hobby need to be brought into the open so we can see these people for who they are.
I would like to note that all people involved in finding homes for unwanted reptiles do not fall into the same catagory. Many of them are truly interested in the betterment of the hobby and also recognize the critical part captive breeding plays in that.
The intent of this article is not to lump them all together, but to raise the awareness that many of them care little or nothing about the hobbyists or the continuation of the hobby itself.
I do applaud the efforts of rescuers who are truly interested in the hobby and do not discriminate between adopters who are qualified to care for the animals they want to keep. Unfortunatly, it's often difficult to tell exactly where the loyalties of some lie.
In closing, I would encourage those of you who would consider adopting a reptile to learn for yourselves the real intent of the rescue with which you are dealing. There is no need to sign your independance away in order to give a snake a home. There is also no need to condone nor support the discriminatory practices of some of these rescues.
If a rescue does not support captive breeding, or refuses to adopt some of the less common herps to breeders, then they deserve no support. If these rescues fail to adopt out any of their reptiles, then at some point they will no longer be able to take in any more, and they will be reduced to people who just have a large collection of iguanas, burms, and red eared sliders.
Adopt from rescues that have the good of the hobby in mind. Those who support captive breeding, and are realistic in the knowledge that whether reptiles are bred or not they will still be desired as pets.
We as herpers have enough problems fighting local and state regulations and animal rights activists lobbying congress. We don't need the added problems of being attacked from our own ranks, by those who pretend to enjoy the keeping of reptiles as much as we do, but in reality don't feel we deserve to keep them at all.