No Fur Required

Let’s be honest: dogs and cats are super needy. Have you ever contemplated a scaly or shelled pet instead? One local pet store in downtown Albany, Reptopia, may have your fix with some interesting animal alternatives.

Reptopia is a small, unassuming shop, jam packed with a wide variety of reptilian critters – geckos, turtles, snakes, chameleons, dragons, and more. It began as a reptile rescue operation in 1999 by Veronica Owen and her husband, Troy. Now, the couple, along with their best friend Heather Gilchrist, manage the day-to-day operations of taking in abandoned reptiles and managing the existing captive-bred stock of animals.

So, what are the advantages of these ancient looking, statuesque creatures? Quite a few, but perhaps the most obvious is that a reptilian friend is somebody you can bond with in utter silence, as opposed to things with fur, whose personalities you have to constantly manage. Reptiles also don’t carry around that odorous baggage that dogs and cats do, so long as you give minimal effort in keeping their terrariums clean. 

Do reptiles plague your apartment with blankets of dander or stain your carpets with their lack of potty etiquette, or scratch your brand new, West Elm couch without regard? Nope! They also don’t require training, they are fairly clean, and don’t aggravate your allergies.

However, this isn’t to say that these rough-skinned vertebrates are without needs – just a different set of needs.

Owen is quick to point out that one misconception is that having a reptile is easy. Lizards, snakes, turtles, and frogs all require different types of living situations, food choices, and regular upkeep of their housing.

Ball pythons, crested geckos, and bearded dragons tend to be less expensive and require basic care, thus they are the most popular sellers. But Owen is all too familiar with how often reptiles are abandoned and regularly fields calls from the City, Humane Society, and individual owners that need someone to take the former pets off their hands. That said, 90 percent of her stock is strictly from breeders, and the remainder are in the form of adoption.

Reptopia is fully stocked with terrariums, heat lamps, various food products, other goodies, as well as the reptiles themselves. The cost of the animals range depending on age and size, but start around $30 and go to about $150, depending on what you get. Chameleons, with their brilliant colors, are the most expensive and can be around $350 for an older one. Food can cost about $20 a month on the low end for leopard geckos, and $60 a month on the high end for skinks (a snake-like lizard). Even though chameleons are more expensive, they have the lowest life span of 3 to 5 years, while turtles and snakes can live 20 to 50 years. There’s a lot to learn, which makes it all the more interesting.

Reptopia is a cash-only business, so be prepared. Stop by to get some good information from the friendly staff and maybe you will come home with an amphibious amigo or slithery soul mate.

Reptopia is located at 225 SW 2nd Avenue in downtown Albany.  It is open Tuesday through Friday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 12 to 4 p.m. Contact them at 503-999-9665 or visit them online

By Chris McDowell