I have no objection to keeping herps (often used short term for amphibians and reptiles) as pets on condition that only appropriate species are kept and that they are kept properly. But, I far prefer it, and it is hugely better for the animals both in captivity and in the wild if people set out to breed them. In this way the demand on animals taken from the wild is reduced and hopefully sooner or later negated altogether; and what better way of judging how well you are keeping an animal than to enable it to do the most natural action in the world - reproducing itself.
Sadly, only a small proportion of herps are really suitable as pets although a much greater number are suitable for keeping in optimum conditions and enjoying the benefit of seeing healthy animals living happily without being used as some form of plaything or status symbol.
The herps that are extremely suitable as pets are few and far between but are readily available from captive bred stock. Examples of species which are suitable are:-
Lizards - Leopard Geckos and Bearded Dragons
Snakes - Corn Snakes
As an extreme example of animals that are readily available, usually taken from the wild and are totally unsuitable as pets we can do no better than cite the Green Iguana. Bought as a sweet little animal less than 30 cms long it can grow into a 2 metre monster which needs, if to be properly kept, quite literally a small room to live in at the very least and can be very bad-tempered.
Lizards which are relatively easy to keep, but somewhat more demanding than the suitable pet species above, include
The Eyed Lizard complex - Timon lepida, T. pater and T. tangitanus
Canary Island Giant Lizards - Gallotti stehlini and Galloti galloti subspecies
Water Dragons - Physignathus cocinchinus and P. leseurii (much hardier)
Painted Dragons - Laudakia brachydactyla stellio
Blue Spiny Lizards - Sceloporus cyanogenys and some other Sceloporus spp
All of the above can be kept in indoor vivaria (although these will usually need to be large) and will often become tame enough to accept handling. In particular, males of the Timon and Galloti genera usually become every bit as tame as Bearded Dragons. In addition:-
Lacertids - these are the perfect lizards for outdoor or greenhouse vivaria. Suitable examples include Lacerta viridis and L. trilineata.
Whether you want a pet, or the hugely greater pleasure of keeping and breeding a group of animals in natural conditions you should also be aware that many of these animals are now protected, subject to licensing etc. You can refer to my "Legislation" page for some basic introductory information using the menu above - or follow this link.
So, if you simply want a pet, obtain only suitable species, remembering that even as a pet they will require a considerable investment in both time and money if you are to keep them well. But, better still, look beyond mere pet keeping and think of the pleasure and pride you could gain out of keeping animals with all the benefits and none of the hazards of their natural environment, of watching them behave naturally and of producing their own young. I would also urge you to obtain captive bred animals. These are likely to be healthier and less stressed and, even more importantly, this reduces the pressures on wild populations.
You will find little more in these pages about pet-keeping. From here on I am concentrating largely on keeping herps in the most natural possible circumstances. Follow the menu above or this link to learn more.
I do occasionally breed surplus animals for sale. I can also supply captive bred animals on behalf of Mark Harris at Dragon Farm who is a personal friend and I am thus able to help him and UK enthusiasts who might not otherwise be able to obtain the beautiful animals that he keeps and breeds in superb, largely outdoor, facilities. Be warned, however, I am picky about the people to whom I do sell animals. I need to be satisifed that their husbandry will be good - I don't have to sell suplus animals - it often hurts doing so!
As mentioned in my "About me" page, I have been keeping Lacertids of various sorts with few breaks for well over 50 years and I obtained my first true (i.e. non-European) exotic over 40 years ago. My Green Lizard colony, for example, still contains genes of animals I acquired in 1962 although this is the exception. They were considerably enhanced during more recent years when a change of circumstances in the early 80s allowed me to put much more time and effort into this wonderful hobby. This culminated in 1990 when a new house allowed me to greatly extend my outdoor facilities and my population of European animals in particular responded with increased breeding to fill the space available