Needed: Home for reptiles

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS – All but four of the 103 reptiles rescued from a Struthers apartment in October are being treated by the Herps Alive! Foundation, a nonprofit rescue organization in suburban Cleveland, and are in need of new homes.

Foundation director Keith Gisser said of the 99 snakes and lizards that returned to the foundation, several were sick and didn’t survive, and a few others are still on medication.

Based out of Gisser’s Cleveland Height’s home, the animals not ready for adoption are being treated for respiratory infections, abscess injuries or malnutrition.

“We’re not adopting those animals out until they are totally healed,” he said.

Besides the 10 snakes and lizards already sold, Gisser said the remaining animals are healthy, eating well and ready to be rehoused. He said some of the ones still under veterinary care are responding and may be available soon.

The four other animals confiscated from the apartment were venomous and immediately transported to The Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade, Ky., Gisser said. He added that those animals suffered mites.

He said all the reptiles treated at the Herps Alive! Foundation are not poisonous or considered dangerous in Ohio, including boas, pythons and a few lizards.

The process for finding permanent homes is quite simple and requires only one thing, he said: care. Like buying any other animal, adopting snakes and lizards also demands responsibility.

Following the general adoption application, Gisser and the foundation meet with the potential buyers and decide whether or not they are fit for ownership and not just interested in “flipping.” Gisser explained “flipping” means the buyers adopt the animal only to put it back on the market.

The Struthers man and woman arrested were charged with selling the reptiles online. They were also charged with violating exotic animal laws and child endangering. Investigators said a 12-year-old boy lived at the home.

Gisser said he was called to the house by the police and found a number of cages, some in bedrooms and some in the basement, and many were hazardous and mislabled.

Though some of the animals were treated humanely, several of the snakes were apparently left for days without water, and Gisser said they clearly had been lying in feces. He also indicated there were feeding issues because the live rats were loose, and the frozen ones appeared to have been sitting out for more than the normal time frame.

There were a few animals the foundation wasn’t able to positively identify and may send to the University of Tulsa for studies of unusual genetics. He said the original owners practiced with breeding and it’s possible for some to be from five to six different types.

“We want to know what specific genetics they carry so we can ask for an appropriate value,” he said.

The adoption fees span from $25 to $300 and range depending on the animal.

Gisser said people should expect some of the reptiles to grow in size over the years, so more living space and care will be required. He said there has been several instances where the reptiles were returned because owners weren’t informed.

“We have more large boas now more than any other animal,” he said. “It’s easy to say the baby boas are cute, but people don’t realize what to expect.”

Gisser said the foundation does what it can to teach adopters some of the proper basics, but purchasing an animal should be more than a spur of the moment decision.

In addition to the animals rescued from Struthers, Gisser said 40 other surrendered reptiles and lizards are available for adoption.