According to Marcha Strickhouser, the store Assistant Manager, the store has been selling exotic pets for a while, some as long as 15 years.
The Village Pet Shoppe’s exotic animals are all captive bred and all come from local breeders. The store’s snakes, for instance, are bought from J&T Reptiles, a wholesale breeder, based in Gettysburg, Pa.
“Animals can be comfort to people during difficult times,” Strickhouser said. “All animals, including exotics.”
Some people find comfort playing fetch with Fido or in the purring of a cat. Other people may find comfort in the smoothness of a snake, the beauty of a lizard or in cuddling a chinchilla.
Why the rise in exotic animals?
“It has to do with room,” Strickhouser said. “Exotic pets are small and do not need a yard to run in. Young adults, young married couples and elderly people do not always have a yard for a cat or a dog to play in, so small and exotic animals are more conducive for their lifestyle.”
“Exotic pets are the best,” said Joe Taylor, owner of J&T Reptiles. “They don’t bark, they don’t pee on the floor, you don’t have to send them to a kennel when you go on vacation!”
While some elderly people look to iguanas for companionship and some children feel a connection to frogs or rabbits, exotic pets are not for “one type of person”, but for the right person. In reality, there is no such thing as an animal that fits a certain person.
Faith Godwin, of Gettysburg, Pa, and her daughter, Lily, age 4, own two Red-Ear Slider Turtles. “She went to a pet store in Chambersburg with her grandma and saw that they had turtles and wanted one,” Faith said. “She loves turtles and always has. I thought it would be a good learning experience to have contact with an animal that was not warm and fuzzy!”
“I love watching them swim and saying good morning to them!” Lily said. “I watch them and take care of them because they are special.”
Zachary Zimmerman, of Fairfield, is the proud owner of Buddy the Iguana.
“The reason I chose him is because he is really easy to take care of and is absolutely gorgeous,” Zimmerman Said. “It was easy to make a habitat for him that was good looking and easy to clean.”
Katy Schwartz, of Gettysburg, an exotic pet owner, has owned a variety of frogs and lizards. She once owned a Golden Gecko named Gex. She rescued Gex from an abusive home. Her reason for owning exotic pets is slightly different from the Godwin family.
The store’s staff encourages new owners to research an exotic pet before purchasing it. If a customer is unsure as to whether or not they really know a lot about a pet they are buying, they can buy a book about their new pet in the book section of the store.
“We tell people that these animals natural habitat is not Hanover, Pa,” Strickhouser said. “These animals are from tropical or desert regions. They need to live in an environment that mimics their real environment.” This means that exotic pet owners need to mimic the lighting or lack thereof, the terrain, temperature and the food of their pets.”
In more recent years, Strickhouser said, the Village Pet Shoppe has actually cut back on the number of exotic pets that they sell. The staff was highly concerned about finding the “right home” for some of their pets.
“Exotic pets are great,” said Kandi Arnold, a staff member at the Village Pet Shoppe and exotic pet owner. “You just have to know how to take care them.”
The staff at the Village Pet Shoppe do not anticipate a rise in the variety of exotic pets that they currently sell. They wish to stay with basic animals that are easy to care for. The store is ideal for first time buyers and the staff wishes to keep it that way.