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Where to Get a Pet - Comparing Sources

Part 1: Rescues and Shelters

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"Where can I get a <insert type of exotic pet here>?"

This is one of the most common questions I get. Unfortunately it is one of the most difficult for me to answer. So much of this question depends on which sort of pet is involved, where a person lives, and what resources are available in the area.

So what do I recommend? Above all else: research your pet before you get it. Know what you will need for supplies, food, and housing, before you get your pet. Make sure you have everything prepared ahead of time, which will help reduce stress on your new pet. More importantly, you will be sure what to expect from a new pet, and what to look for to make sure your chosen pet is healthy. In addition, you will be protected from misinformed or unscrupulous sellers. Some of the misinformation that people get with their new pets includes how large an animal will get, how much care is required, and incorrect diet and housing advice. This is not to say that there are not very knowledgeable and conscientious sellers out there - some will be your best resource and source of information. Just be sure you read all you can beforehand to make sure you know what you are getting!

Depending on how exotic your pet is, or where you are, it may be quite difficult to find a source. Although in some cases you may not have a lot of choices, the pros and cons of different sources need to be considered:

Rescues/Shelters

If available I would recommend this as a first choice. There are a fair number of exotic pet rescues around the U.S., for example, and in many areas there are many exotics in need of homes. Rescues and shelters may have the kind of animal you are looking for, and will adopt them out to carefully screened homes. This has the great advantage of providing a home to an animal that desperately needs one. The animals tend to be a little older (which can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage), and of course, you will want to make sure the animal is healthy and well socialized. Sadly, these animals are often abandoned because their previous owners did not know what to expect or how to care for them properly. Rescues can be a good place to find rabbits, guinea pigs, small rodents, and common reptiles such as turtles and iguanas, as they seem to be common victims of improper information and impulse sales through pet stores. For the less common exotic pet species, however, rescues and shelters may not be an option. Some listings and links to exotic pet rescues:

  • Petfinder.com - and increasing number of shelters and rescues list pets of all kinds here, and you can search by location and type of pet. This site has grown into a great way to find pets in need of homes.
  • Exotic Animal/Alternative Pet Shelter, Rescue and/or Adoption Links - from National Alternative Pet Association - listings by location
  • American Ferret Association - addresses and contacts for ferret rescues/shelters
  • Reptile Rescue Lisitngs - maintained by Melissa Kaplan, reptile and iguana-specific rescues in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
  • House Rabbit Society - Adoption and Rescue - listings of chapters of the society (online and off) which offer adoption/rescue resources.
  • This list is by no means exhaustive, and for most current listings you might go to a search engine like Google and do a search on the desired species of pet and include the search term "rescue" or "shelter" in the search box.

Next: Pet Stores

Shelters and Rescues | Pet Stores | Breeders | Classifieds, Friends, etc.

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