Lizards As Companion Animals: The Challenges
Living with companion animals is very popular in Western societies. Estimates vary regarding the percentages of households in any given country that have a companion. But one thing is for sure: they are very important to us. In the U.S., for example, 35% of people living with companions have included them in a family portrait, and in Chicago, 93% of people rated their affection for their companions as 8/10 or higher.
Animal advocates do not generally endorse keeping exotic companions such as lizards. But knowing about how people care for their exotic companions can help us to advocate for better living conditions on their behalf. To this end, a recent study from Victoria, Australia, sought to look at how people care for their reptiles. And it also aimed to give baseline data for how well people in Victoria were meeting the standards of care for reptiles set out in the Victorian Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Reptiles (CoP). More than 500 people participated in the study, which was done through an online survey. And more than 300 of those people lived with lizards. It was these individuals who were the focus of the study.
Researchers found that the majority of the respondents (55.7%) had lived with their companion lizards for between 3 and 10 years. And 46.5% of them had only one lizard. 58.2% of the respondents got a lizard because they were interested in the species. And 26.3% got one because they “wanted to be different from other people.” 91.1% of the respondents were confident in their knowledge of their companion reptiles. But, actually, the study found that many of the respondents were not acting in compliance with the CoP. And many owners were unaware of how much work keeping a companion lizard requires. This lack of awareness about the CoP is substantially holding back reptile welfare.
The authors note that “Victoria, Australia, may be representative of many other parts of the world in the behaviors that pet lizard owners engage in to manage their lizard’s welfare needs.” If this is the case, there is much work to be done by advocates. We can educate the public about the range of very specific and important needs of lizards that must be met if they care for a companion lizard. This will help to give them the best life possible.