Dave DiNaso is not trying to convince you to like snakes and
other slithering creatures. But he'd like you to check out his
15-foot python and 6-foot alligator just to see if maybe reptiles
aren't that awful after all.
DiNaso, owner of Dave's Traveling World of Reptiles, chose some
creatures most people would rather not encounter for his show,
which combines education with a bit of humor.
"People don't think twice about using a shovel to get rid of the
snake in their backyard," he says. "I felt the need to spread the
word that even though they can be venomous and they're not cute,
they're incredibly important to people."
DiNaso started his reptile show after graduating from college in
1993. He did 41 shows his first year. Now he books about 1,000 a
year and turns away almost as much business as he takes.
When he first got his business off the ground, DiNaso tried quietly
keeping the animals in his apartment until his shows took off. His
current animal home in New Lenox boasts about 200 animals in
enclosures DiNaso designed and built himself. He breeds the
majority of the animals, so they are immediately acclimated to
being around people-essential if you're going to take snakes,
lizards and alligators into schools and children's birthday
"In the 18 years we've been performing, we've never had anybody
injured or bitten," DiNaso says. "All of my employees have been
working with animals their entire lives … so we all have a lot of
knowledge and training."
DiNaso and his co-workers also spend plenty of time out in the
wild, observing and photographing animals.
"I'll often pack up and go to the Outback in Australia or the Great
Barrier Reef. That's another wonderful thing; we have knowledge
because of our experience in the rainforest," DiNaso says.
And his experience extends beyond reptiles.
"I've photographed Great White Sharks and elephants in Africa. But
I do the reptile shows because those are the ones people don't
"I never teach people to like the animals; I want them to respect
them," he says. "You're never going to persuade everyone when you
do a show. Someone will still walk away not liking snakes. My goal
is to reach anyone you can and if you do, you're successful."
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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