Reptiles Are Pets, Too



This is a pet column, but not all pets are furry. A whole new world of pets was introduced to me recently with the visit of my 6-year-old grandson, Remy, who is a confirmed herpetologist.

On the Internet, Remy and his mother discovered the Phoenix Herpetological Society and its sanctuary in Scottsdale. A tour was arranged and it was fascinating.


An audience gathers as Remy, having no fear, tries using his small snake stick on this beautiful snake.

Daniel Marchand and Debbie Gibson, who live on a large piece of property in north Scottsdale, were receiving increasingly more calls for help with removing unwanted reptiles from backyards and businesses. Russ Johnson, another reptile protector, was also doing snake calls. They all met, became friends and discussed the number of animals being killed and displaced, due to lack of education and new housing developments.

Phoenix Herpetological Society was formed. The goal of the Society is to conserve wildlife through education. They teach co-existence, respect, understanding and responsible ownership.

The next need to surface was the lack of facilities for illegal and unwanted reptiles. A phone call from Game and Fish forced the need for a sanctuary. Two alligators were found in a dirty home pond with skin problems. Construction began immediately on facilities to house these and other reptiles. Charlie and Lucy, the alligators, arrived in a horse trailer and were happy to have a new home.

The next thrust was the reality of non-native and illegal animals that were brought into the state and too often were released into the desert when they were no longer wanted. The lucky ones found their way to the sanctuary. The cost of feeding, housing and caring for these reptiles was being covered by Russ, Dan, Debbie and the other volunteers of the organization. The time had come to become a nonprofit organization and get some help from grants and donations. They have now built a functional clinic, eight alligator enclosures and pens and facilities for all types of reptiles.

Currently, 462 reptiles call this sanctuary home.

The PHS has placed over 100 reptiles in zoos, sanctuaries and educational facilities across the country. Tours of this facility are offered by appointment. Children and adults are able to feed the giant tortoises and pet the iguanas. All will learn the differences between turtles and tortoises and can see the eggs in the incubator and the newly hatched babies. For the brave, large and small snakes are available for petting and photo taking. The tour is both educational and fascinating.

Animals arrived while we were there. Many had been kept in too small quarters and were stunted, injured or ill. All new arrivals are quarantined as long as necessary to determine that they are healthy.

For those looking for a pet, suitable young are available through PHS, along with complete care instructions.

Whether or not you have an interest in reptiles, living in a desert state as we do, a tour of this sanctuary is highly recommended. These people are extremely knowledgeable and are most willing to answer questions. They love what they do and love sharing, so that we better understand the needs of these desert creatures. Visit

Other animal news

Gila County Rabies Control, in conjunction with Payson and Star Valley, will sponsor a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5. Located at the Main Street Animal Clinic, 411 West Main St., in Payson, other vaccinations will also be available. Payson, Star Valley and Gila County licenses will be offered.

A spay/neuter clinic, sponsored by the Payson Humane Society, has been scheduled for June 19 through 21 in the Bashas' parking lot. This will be on a first come, first served basis. Vaccinations also will be available at a reduced cost. Female dogs weighing from 2 to 30 pounds will be $60 and males will be $50. The cost for female cats will be $45 and male cats will be $30. Heavier animals or animals in heat or pregnant will require a slightly higher cost.

This is the time to be spaying and neutering our dogs and cats. There are way more than enough pets available at the humane society for everyone who wants one. Spaying and neutering is the right thing to do.

Construction plans are moving forward on the new building for the Payson Humane Society. Fund-raising has begun in earnest. The new building will be better equipped, easier to keep clean and able to properly house more abandoned and homeless animals. Exercise pens and areas to meet a prospective pet are part of the plans.

An anonymous donor will match donations for the building fund up to $10,000. The rules are that at least 100 people in the community donate at least $100 and that these funds are specified for the building fund. Write "Building Fund" on the memo part of your check. We know that the present facility is inadequate. The property is there. It is now time to donate what we can.

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