Keeping snakes, turtles, tortoises, and lizards has become a growing trend in the pet industry. More and more U.S. households have sought out the unique experience of having a reptile as a pet, and there are an estimated 4 million households who already do. Dealing with exotic animals that sometimes require being shipped via overnight parcel mail often leads to the question: Is it ethical to buy reptiles online? A combination of governmental legislations and a general consensus from the reptile-community have contributed to rules regarding the ethical selling of reptiles all around the world.

The Current State of the Reptile Pet Trade

There are a combined total of thousands of subspecies, breeds, and morphs of reptile pets. While there are certainly advantages of having so many to choose from, the huge variety prevents mainstream pet stores from carrying all possible options. As a result, reptile enthusiasts usually acquire their pets through specialty or exotic pet stores through breeders in different states or even countries. 

To ensure that any reptiles for sale are purchased ethically, the best rule of thumb is to buy captive-bred snakes, rather than those caught in the wild. Removing snakes from their natural habitat is not only harmful to the local ecosystem, but to the snakes themselves. Pet snakes that came from the wild tend to be more aggressive, have more health issues, be ill adapted to human contact, and overall have significantly shorter lifespans. 

On the legislative side, several countries including the United States have restricted the import and export of certain snake species. This has slowed the unethical and illegal reptile trade which provides would-be reptile owners peace of mind. Because of these legislative actions, the majority of reptiles for sale (from small and large-scale sellers alike) are those that were not taken directly from the wild, and thus, perfectly legal and ethical.

How To Purchase an Ethically-Sourced Pet Reptile

When looking for reptiles for sale, be sure to ask sellers or breeders the right questions. If buying from a retailer, ask if they have a relationship with their animal sources to ensure that they are truly captive bred. They should know where the animals come from, and ideally, the breeders themselves. While the origin of the reptile pet trade may have begun from humble beginnings, the circumstances have evolved to ensure that the existing reptiles in the pet trade are bred, bought, and sold under the most beneficial circumstances for all involved.

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