Brian Lowney: Acushnet store focused on not-so-cuddly pals

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Sep 22, 2014 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

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If you want a pet that will certainly grab a lot of attention, get a bearded dragon.

These fascinating lizards are easy to keep, clean, enjoy people and stimulate a lot of conversation.

According to Troy De Terra, manager of Cold Blooded Pets in Acushnet, an increasing number of folks of all ages are purchasing unusual creatures to keep as family pets. If you’re thinking of the Addams Family or the Munsters, think again. De Terra says a few of his customers are delightful elderly women who keep boas and tarantulas instead of a cat or dog.

“People don’t realize how many reptile owners there are out there,” he begins, adding that the popular store is a leading retailer of reptiles such as lizards, snakes and tortoise, amphibians that include several species of frogs, and arachnids such as big, hairy tarantulas.

One of the most popular pets that the store sells is the bearded dragon, a colorful lizard indigenous to Australia known its friendly disposition and longevity.

“They are really a pet,” De Terra says. “They enjoy people and interaction.”

He adds that when properly cared for, these interesting lizards enjoy a lifespan of about 12 years or longer, and at maturity, measure 16-18 inches long.

De Terra says these lizards retail for between $30-$200, depending on their color and other characteristics, such as skin texture. He adds that because of strict laws in Australia governing the exportation of these lizards, the store purchases animals from private and commercial breeders in this country.

Nick Chandanais, a longtime store employee who lives in Acushnet, says that like any pet, a bearded dragon needs an owner who is committed to addressing the lizard’s special needs.

“They are very easy to keep once you set them up properly,” he tells, adding that the lizard’s tank should mimic the creature’s natural desert habitat. These cold blooded animals need heat so they can properly digest their food, so it’s recommended that a set of incandescent light bulbs that produce heat be placed over the tank during the day and replaced with nocturnal reptile incandescent light bulbs, which produce heat but little light, at night. Some owners opt to place a heating pad under the tank on frigid nights, making sure, however, that the tank doesn’t get overheated.

De Terra says because bearded dragons are omnivores, these lizards enjoy a variety of foods including worms, crickets, leafy greens and lots of fresh vegetables, including peas, string beans, squash and carrots.

Although bearded dragons enjoy the company of humans, they are solitary animals that do not coexist harmoniously with other lizards and must be kept in separate tanks except when they are mating.

The herpetologist adds that the lizard’s tank should be filled with special reptile sand, and must be cleaned daily to remove uneaten food, feces, shed skin and other debris. De Terra urges lizard owners to purchase a sand sifter, a small tool that resembles a cat litter scoop.

Matt Silveira of New Bedford has owned six bearded dragons, including Patience, a year-old male that he purchased a few months ago from Cold Blooded Pets.

“They are easy to handle and easy to take care of,” the experienced lizard owner says. “They are good around kids, too.”

Silveira adds that the lizard often likes to take a break from the tank.

“I put him on my shoulder and he just hangs out with me while I watch TV and feed him worms,” Silveira says. “He also likes to lounge on top of the couch.”

De Terra says that a large percentage of the pet store sales are derived from selling unusual fare such as mice, rats, crickets and worms.

“A lot of the rodents are frozen,” he tells. “The owners thaw them out and feed them to their pet.”

In addition to selling reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, food and other supplies, Cold Blooded Animals also offers a reptile boarding service for lizard owners who are on vacation or in the hospital and want their pet to receive knowledgeable care. The service costs $10-$20 per week, depending on the amount of required care.

De Terra and Chandanais travel to schools, camps, churches, birthday parties and other venues, where they showcase some of their fascinating animals and often dispel the fear that many folks have of snakes, spiders, lizards and other living things.

For more information, call (508) 985-1982; or visit the store at 176B South Main Street, Acushnet. Cold Blooded Pets is open Mondays, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 1-8 p.m., Sundays, 1-7 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. Like the store on Facebook at Cold Blooded Pets.

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