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What to know before owning an exotic pet

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Many people take on the responsibility of owning an exotic pet before they are ready. Here's what you should know about caring for these exotic animals before taking the leap.

Brad Carter, the owner of Driftless Reptiles, has had an interest in exotic pets his whole life. At his shop, they sell exotic pets and all the supplies necessary to take care of them. When a customer comes in, he teaches them how to set up their animals so they live well.

He said with all exotic pets, there is necessary research involved before someone should take on ownership.

"There are a lot of competing opinions out there about how to keep every species," said Carter. "Do the research. Talk to people who have been keeping these species a long time and see whose animals are thriving and whose animals are just existing."

Carter said the outlook for owning an exotic pet is completely different.

"Everyone's first interpretation of any of these guys is does it bite," said Carter. "When it comes to a reptile everyone thinks they are more scary. Everyone thinks, 'oh, it's more dangerous, it's venomous, it's going to hurt you,' but it's not any different. They're not slimy, they're not creepy, just different."

He explained that the list of exotic animals is endless.

"A lot of care is similar but each one has its own care requirements, its own personality, its own behaviors. It's really fascinating," said Carter.

The number one piece of advice he has is the setup and how crucial it is.

"If you get your initial set up bought, paid for, setup, ready to go, and really just dialed in, that animal is going to do great," said Carter. "It's going to save you money down the road on vet bills, feeding, all different kinds of things, you won't have to replace components as often because you will have done it right the first time."

Carter said over time, the cost for owning an exotic animal in comparison to a dog or cat, is actually less. For an animal like a snake, you only have to feed it once a week but with a dog, two to three times a day.

"In general, they take up less space," said Carter. "They don't miss you if you're gone, the time constraints are a lot easier on these guys."

He said keep an open mind when it comes to exotic animals and introduce kids to them at a young age so they won't be as scared as adults.

Even if he isn't selling something, Carter said he encourages people to contact him if they have questions or need help with something. He is available by phone call, Facebook, Instagram, and you can check out the business' website.

Some people take on the responsibility of owning an exotic pet and then realize they aren't ready for it. That's why on Saturday, May 15, J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue is hosing an Exotic Pet Surrender Event.

John Moyles, director of J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue, said this is the first time they are doing something like this in La Crosse. He said it's important because there isn't a place that you can just take exotic pets if you can't take care of them anymore and releasing them is bad for the animal and environment.

"These events are geared towards exotic pets like fish, birds, small animals, reptiles, and if you have a pet like that that you can't take care of anymore, bring it to this event and we will take it. We will bring it back to our shelter or we work with different animal shelters around the state and we will make sure we find it a good home," said Moyles.

J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue is a 501c3 non-profit. For anyone interested in adopting an exotic pet from them, you can apply on their website.

The event on Saturday is at the Hampton Inn & Suites at 511 3rd St. in downtown La Crosse from 12 pm to 3 pm. They are accepting fish, invertebrates, reptiles, pet birds, small mammals, and plants with no questions asked.

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Rylie Kyhn

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