Much like the idea of reading an advanced driving manual and then expecting to be able to tackle the Nürburgring in sub 7 minutes, theory is not the be all and end all. The art of practice makes us better at every task we undertake in life. This is not limited to reptiles but everything. I used to train and coach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I read many books on the subject with wonderfully detailed step by step instructions. Aspiration always leads the novice to look at the brown and black belt techniques. I always romanticised the flying arm bar. Turns out being a hobbit with a weight problem somewhat limited the efficacy and grace with which I could undertake the manoeuvre. In fact, I usually hurt myself and got the technique horribly wrong. Going back to the first analogy why do student drivers learn in low power, small and easily manoeuvred vehicles? Is the risk that they crash and burn increased when placed in a Ferrari or Lamborghini? Well, of course. In fact, you could read all the advanced driving technique handbooks and become a consummate fountain of knowledge on the theory of high-speed advanced driving but the first time you get in that 700hp supercar and decide to attack the time trail with no traction control or abs what are the odds of you crashing and burning, spinning out or just even stalling? Are they higher than in a Ford Fiesta? Except now we are going to remove automobiles that can be repaired or replaced and replace it with a living animal.
Advanced level animals are sensitive. This sensitivity makes them problematic for people who do not understand how to react. This could be sensitivity to temperature, humidity, psychological security, social stress, breeding stress, a dietary specialism perhaps, a combination of all these factors and more besides. An advanced animal may also be irascible and want to defend itself every time you enter the enclosure. How do you manage that? Second lesson taking Piano, you are 12 years old. The tutor passes you Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata, “here have a crack as this”. How is it going to go? Are you going to nail it first time? Now consider each missed note is a problem that has presented with the animal you are keeping. Understand that each species is different in its required parameters of care. So today its Beethoven, tomorrow it is Debussy – ‘Clare de Lune’ and the day after Chopin - ‘Nocturne in E Flat Major’. You must nail them and get them bang on otherwise the animal suffers. Therefore you learn chopsticks first. A more modern example you have just walked down stairs Christmas morning, mum and dad have bought you the brand-new Nintendo 64. Its got golden eye on it!!! – You are so excited, been waiting months to get your teeth into this game. Only problem is you must play the game on the hardest setting. Every bullet you take and each time you are killed is another issue with your pet. Many beginner reptile keepers are children and have parents that are mystified by their choice of pet. At Snakes ‘N’ Adders it is essential we pair these children with animals that are forgiving whilst the children develop their skill set keeping their pet. Whilst adults would love to believe they are different and whilst the lines may shift slightly, they still apply. An adult may have a greater level of comprehension about the subject matter they are reading but they must still develop practical skills.
Refusal of food, bad sheds, incorrect temperatures, slight respiratory infections, mouth infections, mites etc etc etc. Are these skills sets easier to learn about and rectify on a tame, sociable North American Snake that is sub 1.5m in length or a grumpy, powerful 3m snake from the tropics. Hopefully the answer is evident. Difficulty level ratings annoy certain keepers, they feel it is their right to keep what they want regardless of their practical experience. They also feel that this encourages the disposal of an animal a keeper no longer wants or didn’t want it the first place. The animals at Snakes ‘N’ Adders are in our care until they leave, we have the final say about whether we feel an onward home is appropriate or not. This includes the relevant experience (theory and practical) of the potential new owner. Snakes ‘N’ Adders is a pet shop, we sell pets. We would expect that any keeper worth their salt would understand that a pet is for life and not just for Christmas (nor to learn on!). Whilst we endeavour to ensure this is the case there is very little, we can do about it once an animal has left our care. In a nutshell this is our show, we make the decisions and if that means saving a keeper from themselves so be it. If this means you do not wish to do business with us, so be it. The three levels we have in store are:
1. Beginner – Suitable for novice keepers
2. Intermediate – Suitable for experienced keepers
3. Advanced – Suitable for highly experienced keepers
Granted, the line blurs between intermediate and advanced and it is by working alongside a keeper we can try to assess if they are ready to take that step. We cannot deny the experience they have amassed so far so for the most part we allow a keeper’s common sense to be the guide. All animals are displayed with their difficulty level in store, the stocklist we publish every Monday on social media also displays them as does the website. I hope this helps customers both existing and new to understand the way we run the store and why we do what we do. Other stores can run any way they like, but this system has worked for us for close to 17 years. Peace Chaz