Don't kiss a snake, just keep it as a pet


Tinley Park reptile conference a chance to smile at a crocodile


Tired of taking Fido for walks? Looking for a pet even more stand-offish than Mr. Whiskers? Or maybe you're in the market for a creature that'll keep the grandparents from showing up every other day.

If so, head to the North American Reptile Breeders Conference & Trade Show Oct. 11-12. After all, who needs a pet you can cuddle when you can get one that'll rid the house of crickets?

The show, sponsored in part by Chicago Parent, is a chance to learn about and see pet-friendly reptiles-"herps" to people in the know-including the more than 150 dealers and hobbyists who will be there. Mark O'Shea, from cable television's Animal Planet, will offer advice to animal lovers. Also, one of the nation's top gecko breeders will speak and children will have a chance to have their photo taken with Bubba, a 10-foot alligator.

The show also will offer people a chance to pick up supplies and get advice on owning a scaly creature. One tip? Never kiss a reptile. Apparently, the approach of large warm human lips can spook your typical king snake or Red Foot Tortoise.

Even though they are not kissing counsins, Bob Ashley, co-owner of the show, insists reptiles and children are made for each other. "Kids tend to love holding reptiles," Ashley says. "They get a real kick out of how they feel, the texture of their skin."

Not to mention, you're likley to be the only family on your block with an Australian Bearded Dragon as a pet. "It's neat to be different, and reptiles are exotic and fascinating."

If you're considering getting your youngsters their first herp, Ashley recommends the leopard gecko. "They're very gentle, easy to maintain and colorful." As for the potentially disturbing aspects of reptile feeding-a lot of snakes, for example, are particularly fond of live mice-there's always the frozen-food option, Ashley says. Or get a tortoise-they're vegetarians.

The show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 11, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Tinley Park Holiday Inn Select & Convention Center, 18501 S. Harlem Ave., Tinley Park. Weekend passes are $15 for adults; $8 for children ages 6-13 and free for children ages 5 and under. For information or tickets, call (708) 932-8044 or visit



--Richard Wagle

Kids Eat Chicago

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