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Finding a reputable snake breeder online

Several emails recently have asked how one goes about finding a trustworthy and reputable snake breeder online. In this article I will cover some of what I use to help find them. Remember in no way does this article guarantee that you will always find a reputable breeder by following these methods, however it will help.

Know what kind of snake you want to buy
This might seem obvious to some but to others who haven’t done their research on the wide variety of snakes available to them it isn’t so clear. If the question you are mostly likely to ask after “Where do I find a reputable snake breeder online?” is “What kind of a snake is best for me?” then you aren’t ready to buy anything yet. While all snakes appear roughly the same as far as design each species is very specialized and you need to be prepared to provide adequate care for whichever one you end up buying.

I’m not going to get into a great deal of detail about choosing a snake as a pet in this article. That topic has been covered many times in the past on this website. I will however give a brief overview of things you should consider.

  • Size:

    How large of an adult snake do you want to handle. A neonate Reticulated python is around 12 to 18 inches. An adult, closer to 12 to 18 feet.
  • Cost:

    That albino Ball python you saw is going to run you in the neighborhood of $400 but the normal phenotype will be around $30. Big difference, and that’s just for the snake itself so you also have to consider the housing requirements.
  • Available room:

    While they are small this isn’t such a big issue but as they get larger and larger you need to have the space to safely house them. Some snakes get absolutely huge, while others stay very small.
  • Time you can dedicate to it:

    Snakes aren’t a “set and forget” household pet no matter what you’ve heard. It’s true they don’t take as much work as a dog or cat but you still need to stay on top of things to keep them thriving. For example if you have a tropical or sub-tropical species you’ll need to monitor their heat and humidity on a daily basis.
  • Your level of comfort with snakes:

    If you aren’t comfortable in general with snakes I encourage you to reconsider. It doesn’t matter how docile a species is said to be they will bite you at some point and most likely without any warning. They will hiss and strike at you. Just like people they can have a bad day for no apparent reason. Some species are more susceptible to this kind of behavior than other snakes.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, just some things you should think about in your decision making process.

Make a list of the breeders who specialize in the snake you want
With the internet this is becoming easier and easier to do. A bit of google search magic can help you to find these people. Here is a little explanation for those who are unfamiliar:

Generic search: rat snake breeders
Refined search: "rat snake breeders"
Definitive search: "rat snake breeders" ~your_state

Using a generic search Google will just look for the words “rat”, “snake”, and “breeders” in the results. It doesn’t matter if they are together, in order or anything else. As long as they exist on the page Google search will return that page as a match.

A refined search will look for the exact phrase “rat snake breeders” in a website.

What I call a definitive search will not only return the exact phrase you are looking for, but also will further narrow the results to look for the additional modifier of the state name you type in. This is helpful so you can look locally for snake breeders.

Other places to look are the kingsnake breeder directory and the fauna classifieds websites. You can also look for online communities that specialize in the species of snake you would like to purchase and you’ll often find that those forums have a place for people to list either their businesses or individual snakes for sale. Finally pet-snakes.com has a list of breeders in our snakes by state section.

Unless you are looking for an incredibly obscure species of snake for a pet you should have a pretty lengthy list of potential breeders from these sources. If you are still having problems finding a breeder that specializes in what you want try contacting another breeder and asking them if they can recommend anyone to you. The reptile community tends to be a tight knit group and it’s not at all strange for people to recommend one another even if competition exists between the parties.

Contact the breeders in your list
Now that you have a list it is time to do some good old-fashioned leg work. Contact the breeders and start talking specifics. Get a feel for what they know about their snakes. Some places that appear to be breeders are not. They work directly with importers who provide them the animals instead of producing them on their own. I’m not saying they are bad or dishonest at all however you should know that they might not have any information about the snakes they are selling.

I generally email a few times back and forth with a breeder and then speak to them on the phone a couple of times to get a feel for them. Take care not to waste their time as they have a business to run just like anyone else. Ask relevant questions both of their breeding practices and about the species of snake they specialize in. This is a relevant exercise for a few reasons.

  • It will tell you who you are doing business with:

    A good breeder who is passionate about their animals will want to talk to you about them. They will answer your questions and ask questions of their own. If a breeder can’t be bothered to answer your questions in order to get you to spend money with them do you think they will be responsive after the sale?
  • It establishes a relationship between yourself and the breeder:

    Have you ever walked into a restaurant and the people in their immediately know your name, where you like to sit and even what you like to order? If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars with someone who you only know online wouldn’t you like them to know as much about you in regards to the snakes you will buy from them as possible? I sure do, and most everyone else does as well. The only way to do this is to establish a relationship with the breeder. If you just find a website and place your order you will be nothing but a dollar sign with a number.
  • Sometimes you’ll find a better deal:

    Just because you only see some snakes listed on a breeders website doesn’t mean there aren’t others. For example I got a great Spider morph Ball python from a breeder. It was a hold back from two years prior that had never been put on the site for sale. When I asked the breeder if they had any other snakes other than what was listed they did and the Spider was one of them. It doesn’t happen everytime but if I had not been communicating with the breeder I would have never found this out.

Hopefully those three reasons alone are enough to convince you that opening a dialogue between yourself and the snake breeder is not only a good idea, but a prudent one too.

Pick who you are most comfortable with
Based on your research, and communications decide which breeders you will be most comfortable buying a snake from. I like to have a list of three or four. One is going to be the primary and the others will be “just in case”. At this point I ask for references. Some people like to ask immediately, but I like to wait until now. Why? Because a really good, and honorable person might be selling what they have bred for the first time and has no references at that point. It would be a shame to pass up “diamond in the rough” for lack of a good reference before you even get a chance to talk to them.

Speak to the references
I like to get at least three references from each breeder. If they don’t have any references to give I have to make a decision based on all of our conversations but I would not buy an expensive snake from them the first time around. You will have to decide for yourself what expensive is, but for me it’s $50. Yes, I am a cheapskate.

When you contact the references always remember that they are doing you a favor by talking to you. They have no obligation to spend anytime answering your questions. With that in mind have three to five questions ready to ask them about the snake breeder you want more information about. Your questions can be whatever you want related to the purchase of a snake. Some of mine include:

  • How many snakes have you bought from [breeder name]?
  • Have you ever had any issues with DOA specimens?
  • After the sale how has the communication been?
  • Would you buy another snake from them right now?
  • Can you give me the contact information of someone else you know who has bought from this snake breeder in the past?

That’s just an example of some questions I might ask a reference. The point is to ask whatever is going to make your decision easier.

Make your decision
At some point you’ll need to decide who, if anyone, you will be buying your new snake from. Once you’ve –

  • Researched the species of snake you are interested in buying
  • Made a list of breeders who sell that kind of a snake
  • Contacted the breeders in your list
  • Pick the breeder you are most comfortable with
  • Speak to the references

It is time to make a purchase. For me once all of the leg-work is done buying the snake is the easy part. Because by the time I get to the step I’m very comfortable with my decision.

Final thoughts
Buying a snake can be daunting, but a good breeder will walk you through every step of the process. They will answer your questions and if you are not a good fit for the snake you are trying to buy they won’t sell it to you. They want to make money but they also want to protect the integrity of the hobby.

I hope this article has been helpful in your quest to find a reputable online snake breeder.

  • Overall, this article is good. I’ll add a couple of suggestions.

    First, I’d suggest that people try to find a community of snake keepers before buying a snake. If they get involved with the community first, they’ll learn more ahead of time and be in a better position to take care of any snake before that snake arrives. Talking to folks will give them an idea of who is good and who isn’t so good. An important point is to get a wide variety of opinions. I know some people who strongly defend one breeder while half a dozen others have had problems with that breeder’s animals.

    I have two thayeri kingsnakes that I bought from a guy whom I met in a forum. I loved checking out the thayeri threads in this forum, and I asked plenty of questions. I gravitated to one guy who seemed to be nice and knew his stuff. The thayeri community is fairly small, and I learned of quite a few folks whom I would trust to sell me good animals. I just liked this guy and bought two of his. I’ve had them for several years, and they are doing great.

    Secondly, I’d suggest getting a feel for the breeder’s practices around initial feeding and shipping. The thayeri breeder who produced my guys wouldn’t ship any animal that hadn’t taken three meals of f/t pinkies on its own without tease feeding. I once had to wait six months to get my hatchling because she was slow to start eating, but his policy was that he wanted his snakes to be well started. Once she got going, she was fine. She’ll go off feed a bit in the winter, but she’s a great eater.

    Thirdly, I’d suggest looking at rescue groups for unwanted snakes. Rescue snakes can be a bit tricky for the new owner. Because snake keeping requires a bit of technical skill and seeing the world through our snakes’ eyes requires some thought and practice, a new keeper may not want to take on an animal that has issues or has adapted to one routine. On the other hand, plenty of pet snakes are well socialized but abandoned by owners after the novelty has worn off. Someone can pick up a great animal that is already feeding well and has started to attain a nice size. A good rescue group would be glad to work with a new owner willing to adopt a rescue.

  • Good points, Bill. Being involved in the community of snake keepers is a huge asset for anyone, let alone a newcomer to the hobby. I like your idea of finding out about the breeder’s shipping and feeding habits.

    There’s actually an article on here about adopting snakes, but yes making mention of it in the article would have been a good idea. 

  • Also do not forget the availability of a new pet reptile from a legitimate reptile rescue center you can check the status of 501c3 (federal non profit) here
    http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html
    These can also be great animals as well…Just be sure you take the same precautions as you would from a breeder….the fact is anyone can tell you anything about anything…its you job as a consumer /new parent to do your homework ……

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