What do I need to know about adopting an iguana?
Most humane societies are not equipped to handle the housing requirements of iguanas, so they are typically not a good source to adopt an iguana.
Pet stores will sometimes find themselves with an adult iguana that was either given to them, or sold on consignment. Since the pet store is in the business of selling goods and animals, they don’t get prior history, or screen potential buyers. There is an exception to this as RICA is partnering with a local Petco in Maplewood, MN to promote iguana adoption. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting project!
Petfinder.com and greenigsociety.org are good resources, but there may not be any iguanas in your area. And while a picture is worth a thousand words, you still can’t hold the iguana, or watch it interact with its environment, etc.
Ads in the newspaper by private parties, or online at Craig’s List are sure to yield an iguana, but you will need to know how to interview the party giving up their iguana. You will need to be especially cautious of people who claim to have an “adoption fee” when in effect; this is a price, set by an owner posing as a rescue.
Herpetological societies on the other hand, are usually inundated with iguanas. Some societies require that you be a member in order to adopt any of the animals that are surrendered to them. Most of the time, the iguana will be surrendered with no prior history to determine its actual health. If you ask around, there should be someone with iguana experience who can guide you to a “reasonably healthy looking” iguana. Of course, you will have read all the articles here, and will have a basic understanding of what to look for! There will probably be a nominal fee.
Shelters and rescues specifically for iguanas can be a good source, but again, you will need to know how to interview them.
· When was the last time the iguana was seen by a vet?
SOME BASIC QUESTIONS TO ASK
· For what reason?
· Did it get regular, at least annual vet check ups?
· May I see those records?
· Do you know if it’s a male or female?
· If female, has she laid eggs?
· How many?
· If not, is she spayed?
· How long have you had the iguana?
· Did you raise it from a hatchling?
· What books or online sources have you read about its husbandry?
· What was its diet?
· What is the type of UVB bulbs that were used?
· What temperature is in the habitat?
· May I see the enclosure?
· Did you handle the iguana every day?
· Do you consider it tamed?
· Why are you giving it up?
· If the iguana is being fostered at a shelter, how long has it been in foster care?
QUESTIONS TO ASK AT A SHELTER OR RESCUE
· Is the shelter a nonprofit organization?
· How many iguanas has this shelter re-homed in the last month? Year?
· Do they follow-up with adopters?
· How often?
· Is there an application?
· Is there a contract?
· Is there a fee?
· What is the estimated amount of the fee that goes to the actual care of the iguanas in the shelter such as food and heat, and not cleaning supplies or administration?
· How many people are fostering iguanas and how many iguanas does each foster person keep including their own?
· What is their mission statement?
· Can they provide references such as previous adopters?
· Are they a part of another organization, such as a herpetological society, or humane society?
· What is the screening process for potential adopters?
· Is there a home visit?
The questions listed under “Some basic questions to ask” are also applicable to shelters and rescues. Don’t be shy about bringing in this list. But more than asking a bunch of questions, engage the owner, or shelter staff. Try to determine if the shelter people are passionate about their iguanas and their cause. An unfortunate part of rescue is burnout. Too many iguanas and too little resources can lead to neglect. Make sure cages are clean and food is fresh. Most surrendered iguanas come to rescues on the skinny side. If all of the iguanas are thin looking, and they’ve been at the shelter for over six months, there could be a problem with care. Check the bottom of the iguana for ground in dried feces that indicate poor cage cleaning, even if the cage is currently clean. Most people who operate rescues are doing it out of their own home, and almost always out of their own pocket. Ask about the temperament of the iguanas in their care. Are they all “sweet and adorable”, or does the staff try to match you up with the right iguana whose personality will fit your situation? A lot of times rescues will have hatchling iguanas, so ask if one is available, or ask to be put on a waiting list.
Sadly, too many times the iguana surrendered is older, and probably near the end of its captive life. Even if there’s potentially only five years left, don’t let that deter you from providing a loving home and excellent care for a senior iguana.
We at RICA are more than happy to help you find an iguana and help you through the adoption process.
If you find that you need to surrender your iguana, we encourage you to keep it at home while we locate and screen potential adopters. This is less stressful for the iguana, and we have limited space for fostering. We feel that this is more responsible approach.
We will promote your iguana here on the RICA website, and through other online outlets such as Petfinder.com. We even have a page on Myspace! We also partner with the Minnesota Herpetological Society and the Maplewood, MN Petco.
Iguanas are not for everyone. They require specialized care and equipment. It can be costly to house one in colder climates. They can be hazardous with their sharp teeth and whip-like tail. They are tropical animals that have ended up as captive pets through no choice of their own. Keeping an iguana is a huge commitment and responsibility. Please do not take it lightly. On the bright side, you will be rewarded with the most unusual animal companion you will ever have. You will belong to a community of others who also have discovered the joys and tribulations, the amazement and bemused bewilderment, of being an “iguana kept”.