Ok, so I've written about this before (Research, research, research!) but recent threads on the Chameleon Forums have triggered me to write about this topic again.
All the time I see people come on the forum with an animal that is not doing well. And the first thing we ask them is to fill out the "How to ask for help form," which is just a questionnaire that helps us figure out what could be wrong and how to give people the most relevant advice. All too often the answers that people put down (like size of cage, basking bulbs, supplements, etc.) are all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
So when we start to suggest corrections to their husbandry, such as to replace the useless red bulb they have with a proper UVB one, or to switch out their supplements for a safer option, the answer we get is "but this is what the pet store told me to use."
Well, don't listen to the pet store.
Nearly 100% of the time, when someone shows up on the forum with the wrong supplies, it's the fault of the pet store. Practically without fail, it's the pet store that talked them into getting a cage that is too small, a light that is harmful, and supplements which are dangerous.
|Pet store chameleon display. 10 gallon tank with 7 juvie veileds. Woodchips as |
substrate, a basking bulb that was too hot, and no UVB at all. This is what pet
stores consider acceptable husbandry. Scary, right?
The employees at the pet store (whether it's Petsmart, Petco, or a smaller independent one) probably have no idea what they're talking about. They may tell you that they have a 2 year old veiled chameleon at home that's doing just awesome with the exact same supplies as he recommended to you. Well, I've seen the chameleons people think are "doing just awesome," and it really scares me. I've had people show me their absolutely deformed chameleon, with bent limbs, broken bones, and wavy tails and bragged about how great they were doing. All the while totally oblivious to how severe their issues were and how completely and utterly horrible their husbandry was.
Let's face it, most pet store employees are either teenagers or young adults that couldn't find better work to do while going to school. In the case of the horrible co-worker I had that I mentioned in the other entry, he was a 30-year-old man with a felony who had never gone to college and couldn't find a better job even if he tried due to his poor behavior and ethics. And that's the person who is giving you advice about how best to care for your pet. It makes you cringe, right?
I'm not saying pet store employees are bad people or doing it with malice, but they're ignorant and their job is to sell pets and supplies. So that's what they're going to do - sell supplies. Even if you don't need them at all or if they're the worst possible thing you could buy. And if you follow this blog you know how often I recommend one product or explain why one is a waste of money, I try to recommend what is best for your chameleon while trying to save you a little money in the process. That's why I emphasize doing your own research prior to making an investment like the one it takes to buy a pet. It's the best way to find out what products you actually need, which ones you don't, and which ones will actually be harmful.
So next time you're in a pet store and the employee brags about how great his chameleons are doing living under a red light bulb with no UVB, stop, and take your questions elsewhere. Best-case scenario you're just going to be wasting a few dollars. But worst-case scenario your chameleon could end up with serious, and costly, medical issues.
So shop smart! And take advice with a heavy grain of salt.