Cold-blooded, but cuddly? The Potts brothers talk about reptiles.
OLDSMAR – Bob and Andrew Potts turned a hobby into a business when they opened the Herp Hobby Shop reptile breeding center in 1991.
The shop at 700 St. Petersburg Drive W sells lizards, snakes, turtles, and even tarantulas, including one known as the Goliath Birdeater. The shop also offers boarding services for your pet reptiles and arachnids, and can also determine their gender.
They got their start when three Potts brothers moved from Texas to Florida in 1975. It was Bob and his late brother Robby Potts who started attending herpetological society meetings, and then Andrew started going.
“When we started selling reptiles, we had a fold-out chart table and four 10-gallon tanks in our garage,” said Bob Potts, 54. . That’s how it started.”
He and his older brother Andrew, 61, spoke with the Tampa Bay Times about reptiles and their popularity as pets.
• • •
What are the most popular reptiles?
Bob Pott: Your big three are your bearded dragon, your leopard gecko and then your veiled chameleon. And among snakes, it’s hands down the ball python because of all the different colors, and it’s the quintessential snake: it’s friendly, it never bites, it reaches a total length of 3 to 4 feet . They are very robust. They almost never get sick. They are the perfect snake, they really are.
• • •
What is the most someone could spend on a single reptile?
PA: Last year or two, they found a pair of leucistic king cobras (a venomous snake that is white in color because it lacks pigment) in India, and these wild animals fetch between $50,000 and $100,000.
Here at the Herp Hobby Shop we have (animals) from $20 to $2000. We have them in all price ranges.
• • •
Are you planning your weekend?
Subscribe to our free newsletter Top 5 things to do
Every Thursday, we’ll give you ideas for going out, staying at home or spending time outdoors.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s start.
Explore all your options
What do people like in reptiles? They don’t look cuddly.
Andrew Pott: They can be. For example, the bearded dragon. I have kids, they go to the mall, go to the beach, they watch movies and the bearded dragon sits on their lap or sits on their shoulders, never moves, just sits there for hours of fun. in a row. And they come to recognize you and a lot of these animals the more generations they are raised in captivity… they start to be domesticated. So they start picking up some things. They are starting to see you.
PA: I like to compare them to a parrot or a macaw. They really are. They are featherless birds. As birds can be very affectionate, many lizards are affectionate in exactly the same way.
(The) bearded dragon, we call them the pet dog of the lizard world.
• • •
Why are they called bearded?
PA: Well, when they get excited, they puff up their (throat) and it’s black. They look like they have a black beard.
• • •
What is your reaction to reports of pet owners releasing pythons into the Everglades?
PA: It is well exaggerated. … The data doesn’t prove it.
PA: Most reptiles (owners) I have known over the past 35 years would rather let their children go hungry than let their pets go. Do the animals come out? Yes, but, again, this is the rare exception.
If they escape we talk about it from time to time, and for him to meet another one that somehow escaped and reproduced and they’re in the same area, that’s pretty – like I said, most people are very, very responsible.
The idea of freeing them, I found it fascinating: everyone freed them, they went to the Everglades to free them. That’s crazy. We all know why these reptiles are here because of a major disaster called Hurricane Andrew. Prior to this, the (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), which is the governing body, did not provide you with a hurricane evacuation plan. After Andrew, they said we needed a hurricane evacuation plan. You know why?
Because of Hurricane Andrew, I think all of the major importers in South Florida were destroyed. Thousands and thousands of animals were released simultaneously. US Fish and Wildlife (Service) as (standard operating procedure) takes DNA samples. They’ve traced all those loose Burmese (pythons) that are captured back to the ones that escaped to Andrew. It is complete fiction.
• • •
In a recent report, someone broke into a Southwest Florida reptile breeder’s business and stole 18 turtles worth $30,000. Are turtles worth that much?
PA: Oh yeah. It’s more lucrative to smuggle exotic animals than drugs. Usually the fines or penalties are much less severe as they are only reptiles and not dangerous narcotics, and they are easy. They do not verify them in the same way.
It’s big business, and that’s why commercial breeding is such big business. The popularity of these exotics has just exploded. And that’s exactly what drives everything else.
• • •
How to determine the sex of reptiles?
BP. Survey. It is a scientific term used for many animals. You stick a metal probe inside the rectum area and, based on its depth, determines whether it’s a boy or a girl.
• • •
How did you get started in this profession?
PA: I went to a buddy who had a shed in his backyard, and he was just keeping a few common king snakes, but he had the babies and the eggs. (I thought) ‘oh, wow,’ you can actually keep snakes in small areas and breed them. The process was very fascinating. I fell in love with it from the start.
PA: He was my brother. I was married at the time. I mean, we’ve always been reptiles. We moved here (from Texas in 1975), we were catching everything. They met this guy, joined the herpes society or attended (meetings, and Andrew Potts started going.) And then they showed me (an albino Burmese python) and I said, hey, it’s cool. From there it was just a hobby and then one day they – not me – spent a lot of money on what they call investment type animals. And from there, that was it.
PA: We did it on the back porch then went to a warehouse.
PA: Everything happens for a reason. We were kicked out of there because one of our little king snakes escaped and a neighbor called the HOA. They threatened to throw us in jail forever. It was a small king snake, but it was non-native, it was (from) California. But the neighbor had a conniption. So we had to go find a warehouse, that’s when we took our hobby and turned professional.
• • •
How many reptiles do you have?
PA: It fluctuates, but at any time easily 2000 or 3000.