Archive for Saturday, October 27, 2001

Cold-blooded pets get warm reception from owners

Reptiles, amphibians popular with younger folks

October 27, 2001


What kind of person would want a cold-blooded creature as a pet rather than a warm and fuzzy cat or dog?

Luke Welton knows.

Serra Rantner, 10, has a collection of cold-blooded pets, including
this ball python named Oliver.

Serra Rantner, 10, has a collection of cold-blooded pets, including this ball python named Oliver.

He's curator of the reptile section at Pet World, 711 W. 23rd St., and he sells snakes, lizards and frogs to customers all the time.

"The reptile people look a little rough, a little rugged," said Welton, 21, a junior at Kansas University. "There's kind of an aura about them. They're cut from a completely different cloth than most people."

While reptiles, which have scales, and amphibians, which have moist skin like frogs, might not be everyone's cup of tea, plenty of Lawrence customers are buying them as pets.

"There's something for everybody," Welton said. "If you want one that's going to be real evil looking, we've got those, and then we've got tree frogs and things that are just really beautiful.

"We've got young college girls coming in and buying tree frogs, and college guys coming in and always wanting the big snakes or lizards something kind of showy."

But Jennifer Ebelke, an employee at Scales & Tails Exotic Pets, 2201 W. 25th St., said it's difficult to generalize about those who seek out cold-blooded critters.

"We've had all kinds of people come in: preppy-type people, biker people, skater punks, the hippies, every kind of group," said Ebelke, 20, a KU sophomore. "Some parents will come in with their kids who want a snake. There's no real set category of people who get them."

Then there's Serra Rantner, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Deerfield School who's crazy about cold-blooded animals.

Serra, who volunteers after school at Scales & Tails, has two ball python snakes, named Oliver and Olivia, and three leopard gecko lizards Magic, Mystic and Fritz.

She also has a cat and a dog, so she knows what it's like to have warm-blooded pets, too. Serra actually prefers her slithery and slimy animals to her four-footed friends.

Her pet gecko Mystic is bright yellow with brown spots.

Her pet gecko Mystic is bright yellow with brown spots.

"I think they're a little bit better because they're easier to maintain," she said of her snakes and lizards. "I just kind of think that they're really interesting. They're not your fuzzy type of animal."

In fact, she loves her reptiles.

"If I had to save one of my animals from a fire, I'd probably choose my largest snake, Oliver," Serra said. "I talked my dad into getting him, and he's just really, really nice."

Roy Engeldorf, owner of Scales & Tails, is definitely a reptile person. He owns more than 200 snakes, which he keeps at his home in DeSoto.

One of them, named Diamond, is an albino Burmese python that is 15 feet long and weighs more than 100 pounds.

So people can love their cold-blooded pets. But can a snake or lizard love their owners back?

Engeldorf is dubious.

"They're not that intelligent," he said. "I have some animals that I believe do know me. Some of them can be personable, and some of them I believe do enjoy being handled. But you're never going to get one to go fetch a ball or return a Frisbee."

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