Legal Considerations PLEASE NOTE: Be aware of the Provincial and Municipal bylaws in your location, as some of the animals you are rescuing may be prohibited. A Captive Wildlife Permit may be required or the animal may need to be placed with caregivers in a different region or province.
Salmonella Series of gram negative bacteria Causes gastroenteritis (nausea, cramps, diarrhoea) in healthy adults Serious and potentially fatal in young children, elderly or immunosuppressed As high as 90% of reptiles are carriers, harbouring strains specific to reptiles without any symptoms CDC estimates that 74,000 cases per year are associated with exposure to reptiles or amphibians
U.K. Daily Express – February 1, 2010 Experts have warned that youngsters locking lips with amphibians in real life risk catching salmonella. The advice comes after 50 children were taken ill in America after copying the heroine of Disney’s latest film, The Princess And The Frog. The children were rushed to hospital suffering with the disease, which causes sickness and diarrhoea. Doctors blamed the cases in 25 US states on youngsters kissing frogs after seeing the film. Most were under 10, with half being girls. Experts in the US and UK urged parents not to allow their youngsters to copy Princess Tiana after seeing the animated film, which is out on Friday. Trevor Beebee, president of the British Herpetological Society, said: “Kissing frogs is not hygienic and they also have various toxic things on their skin, which are unpleasant.” The Health Protection Agency advises against kissing any reptiles, saying: “All should be presumed to carry salmonella in their gut, even if they do not show any signs of infection.”
Before You Begin… ALWAYS wash your hands or use a non-citrus hand sanitizer both before and after handling Especially important before handling snakes. Smell is their primary sense and they know if you have eaten meat for lunch!
Lizard Communication Dewlap / beard Puffing up or posturing Tail whipping Open-mouth posture Eyes open vs. closed, small or large pupils, staring or eyes averted Pacing and nose rubbing Voiding or defecating when handled Head bobbing, either fast or slow Tongue flicking Hissing or huffing
Special Considerations If you know or suspect that you are rescuing an Iguana: Do NOT wear a hat, scarf or any other item on your head especiallyDO NOT wear red, orange or green! Wear dark or neutral colours if possible; especially DO NOT wear red, orange or green!
Procedure for Handling …Do NOT be afraid! Reptiles do not sense fear, but they can interpret your behavior.
Handling Techniques If a large lizard, wear welding gloves or have a large towel ready to cover Have pet carrier open and ready to receive reptile, warming device under a towel to provide some heat Remember to cover the face with a towel or blanket; never allow the reptile to breathe cool air as can cause respiratory infection (RI) Keep stress level to a minimum
Handling Techniques Seize from behind. Never handle a lizard from face on! Support whole body, holding upper torso just behind forearms and sliding other arm under base of tail if large lizard Do not grab the tail, although you can place it under your armpit when holding large lizards. Some species can drop their tails! Geckoes are small and can be very fast! Be careful not to get bit, as looks can be deceiving.
Lizard leashes - beware of “alligator rolling”. Must use a pet carrier to contain animal Never place around lizard’s neck or constrict abdomen to harm vital organs, best placed in front of hind legs or use a harness Can easily break tail
Tricks and Special Handling If socializing pet Iguanas, including males NOT in breeding season: ALWAYS keep your head above theirs (also during rescues and seizures). NEVER allow a lizard to stay above your line of vision! Hold animal securely to prevent escape or retaliation Head bob SLOWLY until reptile closes eyes. NEVER head bob quickly or abruptly – states your intent to fight NEVER attempt with males during breeding season – futile and you will get bitten Special Note: Never pet or touch a monitor lizard on its head, especially if a female. You are dominating or “bullying”. Males do this to females in the wild when greeting or mating. Special Note: Never pet or touch a monitor lizard on its head, especially if a female. You are dominating or “bullying”. Males do this to females in the wild when greeting or mating.
Large or Aggressive Lizards Monitor lizards and Iguanas especially, approach with caution Have VERY powerful bite, claw, tail whip Remember - rescues are often afraid or hostile due to hunger, neglect, abuse or injury
Beware of claws - can cause serious damage to skin! Trim with nail clipper (only clip the tiny tip off the end, too much can bleed) Use cornstarch to stop bleeding
Large or Aggressive Lizards Pet Flex bandage (also called veterinary wrap) or hockey tape can be used for short term to wrap around mouth and eyes, has calming effect and lizard is unable to bite Do NOT cover nostrils, ensure reptile can breathe!
Supplies Pet flex bandage (vet wrap) or elastic hockey tape (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Pre-heated heating disc, hot water bottle or magic bag (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Nail clippers and cornstarch Disinfectant and antiseptic cleanser Appropriately sized pet carrier Towels and 1 or 2 blankets Welding gloves
Frogs and Toads Frogs streamlined with smoother skin, toads fatter and have a bumpy or warty appearance Some species can be toxic to humans Do not handle if possible, use rubber or latex gloves – safer for amphibian also Seize from behind Wash hands afterward!
Turtles and Tortoises Turtles mainly aquatic, tortoises are terrestrial Both species can BITE! Pick up by the carapace (shell) at least halfway down body to prevent injury, use rubber or latex gloves and seize from behind Place on a clean towel inside of a Rubbermaid container or pet carrier Wash hands afterward!
Snake Communication Snakes are not completely deaf, even though they have no ears and cannot hear sounds! Have middle ear bones (malleus, incus and stapes) same as in humans, but attached to the jaw so they can sense vibrations Poor eyesight, not the same as in humans Rely heavily on sense of smell – Jacobson’s Organ
“S” stance Hissing Tongue flicking fast or slow Relaxed or fast movements, highly alert and excited behavior Tail vibrating Defecating or musking * Can do temperament testing with pet snakes * (touch nose with palm to test recoil)
Handling Techniques If unsure of species or temperament, wear welding gloves and/or use snake hook Have pet carrier open and ready to receive reptile, warming device under a towel to provide some heat Tie in a pillow case or cloth bag and place inside pet carrier; never allow the snake to breathe cool air as can cause respiratory infection (RI) Keep stress level to a minimum
Handling Techniques ALWAYS seize from behind. Never handle a snake from face on! Hold with 2 hands, grasp fingers firmly just behind head to prevent bite Snakes can strike lightning fast, often with no warning. They are nocturnal and cannot close their eyelids so they can be startled from sleep during the daytime
Snake Bite! Some snakes have fangs; vast majority kept locally are non-venomous Teeth curve backward into mouth in some species DO NOT pull away, push into mouth until teeth are out of the skin, then pry mouth open to remove finger or limb Citrus or pure whiskey poured onto nose will cause snake to release immediately, may also regurgitate
Supplies Pillow cases or cloth bags of various sizes (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Pre-heated heating disc, hot water bottle or magic bag (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Disinfectant and antiseptic cleanser Appropriately sized pet carrier or vented container Snake hook or tongs Welding gloves Towels and blankets Lemon extract or whiskey (pour onto snake’s nose, causes it to release if you are bitten)
In Conclusion… Be aware of federal, provincial and municipal bylaws in your area Research most common species of pet reptiles If unsure of species or temperament, use extra precautions and handle very carefully If you are the rescuer or first responder, some reptiles can be imprinted negatively by your scent
Herp Resources Websites Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection: http://www.anapsid.org/handlingreptiles.html Nova Scotia Herpetoculture Society: http://users.eastlink.ca/~nshs/ Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC Canada) http://www.pijaccanada.com/en/ Ssafe Haven Society for Reptiles and Amphibians: http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/NS17.html The Merck Veterinary Manual: http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp
Herp Resources Books Green Iguana-The Ultimate Owner’s Manual – by James W. Hatfield III Iguanas for Dummies – by Melissa Kaplan Manual of Exotic Pet Practice – by Drs. Mark Mitchell and Thomas Tully Jr. Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2 nd Ed. - by Dr. Douglas Mader The Reptile Keeper’s Handbook - by Susan M. Barnard