Dear Iggy,

Greetings! My name is Floyd. I am a Chinese Water Dragon living in mid-central Ohio. I have quickly become a big fan of yours after reading only two articles written by you in the Columbus Free Press. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it is to read an animal rights column written by an animal, for the welfare of all animals!

I have an important animal rights issue to tell you about myself. It is an issue I rarely see anything written about, as well as one of great concern to my parents and myself: The care of reptiles being domesticated in these northern regions which normally belong to warner desert or jungle habitats.

The basics of my own care include three different kinds of lamps, a large, heated and filtered watering site and things to climb on and hide under. Fresh terrarium plants are always a plus, but hard to come by around here. The problem is that while the occurrence of reptiles for pets has gained in popularity, the care we receive is often so inadequate, many of us become ill with irreversible conditions such as metabolic bone disease. In our natural habitats, we rely heavily upon sunlight and heat for survival. For instance, without the UVA and UVB rays of the sun our skin soaks up, our bodies cannot digest food properly. Our bodies then become deplete of calcium, vitamins and other essential minerals until our own skeletons begin breaking down. Likewise, without adequate heat, our metabolism slows until we no longer feel hungry enough to eat. My particular species also requires a large amount of humidity.

Many people “purchase” us from pet stores, where we have already been exposed to inadequate conditions. Many of us end up suffering burns and eventual blindness from improper use of lighting and heating equipment. We also suffer from internal parasites such as pinworms that go unnoticed and therefore untreated for long periods of time. Many of our “owners” grow tired of us as we outgrow our terrariums and end up deserting us either on pet store or vet hospital doorsteps, or to the outdoors where death is imminent.

Many reptile owners decide to create their own terrariums by using lumber that may contain hazardous chemicals to our systems. Plants, sticks, bark, rodents and insects from outdoors can be poisonous to us and bring in parasites and bacteria.

I urge all prospective reptile parents to first study (from current reptile publications, which can be hard to find) about the particular needs of the reptile they wish to bring into their homes. I also urge these people to think about whether they are willing to take the responsibility for the reptile once purchased. For instance, a baby water dragon can cost around a mere ten bucks or so, but the equipment needed for the care of one costs hundreds of dollars!

Some last points: Reptiles have been domesticated for much less time than, say, dogs and cats, and not long enough to be “tame,” so we can become aggressive toward our parents and are often deserted for behavior we find quite natural; reptiles can carry salmonella, which can be harmful to young children; and reptiles have been removed from our natural habitats by humans for the entertainment of humans and our numbers are increasing to meet the demand of pet store markets — all we ask for in return is that we be cared for properly and treat as the respectfully beautiful life forms we are.



Iggy’s note: Floyd sent this letter in February. We at Iggy’s Animal Rights Update were saddened to learn he passed away March 8 from ‘unknown causes.’ It makes his message all too important. Long live Floyd!