Should You Handle Your Pet Reptile?

Handling reptiles is something of a bone of contention among reptile keepers with people on both side of the divide.

On the one hand, some reptile keepers love to handle their pets and the “hands on” experience is key to their enjoyment of their pet. A tame reptile is also far easier to care for and clean out than one which requires hooks, gauntlets and more. And having a reptile that other people can handle can also help to break down barriers and remove the fear that many people have of exotic pets.

On the flip side, some exotic pets have the potential to cause injury through tails, teeth or claws and so care must be taken with some species. Furthermore, whilst the chances are slip, some reptiles are known to be infected with bacteria such as salmonella which can be passed onto humans.

Handling reptiles increases the potential of a reptile to be harmed if it struggles or jumps and indeed some reptiles can be caused considerable stress through inappropriate handling.

As I say, there are no real right and wrong answers here, just opinions. My own perspective is that I *do* handle reptiles (if it is safe to do so) but not on a regular or prolonged basis. For me, reptiles are more for watching than handling but I appreciate the practical aspects of having a hand-tame pet when it comes to routine maintenance.

Should you decide to handle your reptile there are a few tips worth bearing in mind.

Firstly take the time to read a book or even better speak to a more experienced keeper so you can gain an understanding of the correct handling procedure. For example handling a corn snake can be different to handling a bearded dragon so find out before you start handling for the safety of your pet.

Related:  May 2016 Reptile News

Secondly if a reptile isn’t used to human contact then be careful not to get hurt or stress out the animal, using very small handling sessions to familiarize the animal with you.

Thirdly, to limit the risk to the reptile, handle it over a low, soft surface such as over a bed so that if it jumps or you drop it, no harm is likely to come to your pet.

And finally, ensure you protect your arms from the risk of scratches from long claws and wash your hands carefully afterwards to eliminate the risk of disease transmission.

Indeed, if you have more than one pet reptile you would like to handle, wash your hands in soap and hot water (or use one the antibacterial hand washes made specially for reptile keepers) between handling each individual to further reduce the risks of disease transmission from one specimen to another.


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