Gary Bagnall, the founder and CEO of Zoo Med Laboratories Inc., a company that manufactures reptile cages and supplies, recently resigned from his position as chair of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) board.
In his resignation, Bagnall said that animal rights groups want to “shut down the industry and hobby” of reptile keeping. He also affirmed that Zoo Med will donate $10,000 per month to USARK.
While PETA is happy that Bagnall is out, his departure likely won’t change anything for the victims of the vile reptile trade.
USARK Fights for Selfish Humans, Not Reptiles’ Welfare
USARK, which is headed almost entirely by profiteers of the reptile trade, promotes private ownership of reptiles in the U.S. It positions itself as a “right-to-own” organization and has regularly opposed federal and state legislative and regulatory attempts to curb reptile imports, breeding, sales, and possession since its inception in 2008.
Zoo Med Enables a Deadly ‘Hobby’
Bagnall’s Zoo Med has made a name for itself by hawking tanks, food, medicine, heating lamps, and other accessories used to keep reptiles, fish, and other exotic animals captive.
The “hobby” they enable—called herpetoculture—is all about the whims of human collectors. Humans in search of a “pet” confine reptiles, whose natural territories range in size from about a square mile to hundreds of square miles, to small tanks. If they survive, the animals eke out a meager, unfulfilling existence in their tiny cages.
Today, over 6 million U.S. households keep one or more “pet” reptiles. These customers line Zoo Med’s pockets, so there’s no doubt as to why it invests so heavily in the reptile trade’s biggest fan, USARK.
As seen in PETA’s investigation into Reptiles by Mack (a PetSmart supplier), the reptile trade breeds animals, often by the thousands, in hellish warehouses, ships them in substandard conditions, and sells them to the public, often in poor health and without adequate instructions for proper care. Other reptiles are snatched from their homes in nature. Of course, Zoo Med doesn’t have to deal firsthand with any of the terrors that it enables as a supplier.
Zoo Med Has a History of Misleading Consumers
Zoo Med doesn’t just benefit from the indirect harms that its practices inflict upon reptiles—it banks on bad care. For years, the company even claimed that snakes could be held in enclosures only half the length of their bodies, while reptile experts agree that snakes need at least enough space to stretch out completely in order to avoid slow and painful deterioration.
Following a PETA consumer protection lawsuit, Zoo Med removed this claim from its website. But it still sells tanks as small as 20 to 36 inches in length specifically for snakes. In a tank this small, it’s nearly impossible to provide a snake with enough room to stretch out or places where they can bask, burrow, and explore, as they would in nature.
Zoo Med: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
If Zoo Med cares about reptiles, it should use the $10,000 it plans to donate to USARK every month to support efforts to find new homes for and care for the countless snakes, lizards, and other animals who rescue organizations end up caring for each year.
Members of reputable rescue organizations do the often thankless work of helping victims of the reptile trade. They take in animals who are abandoned or neglected by people who bought them and are unable to keep up with the massive expense and commitments of proper reptile care.
Currently, Zoo Med only supports rescue services with paltry “product donations”—thinly veiled marketing that doesn’t address the real costs of caring for rescued reptiles: feeding them, administering medical care, and finding them permanent homes.
Reptiles Aren’t ‘Pets’—Don’t Buy Them
It’s estimated that up to 75% of “pet” reptiles die within their first year in a human home. Reptiles are sensitive animals who require specialized care, yet they’re sold like inanimate objects to people who often buy them on impulse, with little to no knowledge about their proper care and special needs for space, heat, humidity, lighting, live prey, and more.
Snakes are loving and protective mothers who don’t let their young out of their sight for three weeks after they’re born.
Numerous studies show that, like all other animals, reptiles experience anxiety, stress, distress, excitement, fear, frustration, pain, and suffering. In nature, many reptiles enjoy swimming, climbing, jumping, burrowing, and exploring their territories.
Reptiles kept as “pets” for human amusement are denied these essential pleasures and relegated to lives devoid of joy or meaning.
How You Can Help Reptiles
If you have the equipment and the knowledge to care for reptiles, help them by providing a home for former “pets” who were abandoned or surrendered. Never buy reptiles or other “exotic” animals from breeders, pet stores, expositions, or anyone else.
Encourage your friends, family members, coworkers, and social media followers to do the same.
Finally, you can respectfully write to Gary Bagnall at [email protected] and ask him to donate $10,000 of Zoo Med’s profits per month to reputable reptile rescues instead of USARK. If he wants to have a positive impact for reptiles, this money would make a big difference.