How To Start A Reptile Rescue

Do you love everything to do with reptiles?

Have you read all about reptile rescues and are interested in helping to save these creatures?

If you have dreams of bringing all the reptiles into your home and finding them a good home, you might be wondering:

How can I start a reptile rescue?

To start a legitimate reptile rescue, you will need to check with local and state guidelines to see if you are legally meeting all the requirements. You will also need to develop an operating budget, get the appropriate licenses to care for and house reptiles, and have a location with all the proper space and resources for everyday care, veterinary services, and possible volunteers. Above all, you will need to have patience and determination.

Starting a reptile rescue is not for the faint of heart, and it should only be done for the right reasons.

Continue reading this article for more information on starting a reptile rescue.

how to start a reptile rescue

How To Start A Reptile Rescue

Reptile rescues across the country are doing wonderful things in caring for surrendered or abandoned reptiles.

You might consider doing this if you see a need in your community, and you’re dedicated to reptiles of all shapes and sizes.

Developing a plan and checklist of what you need will help you be organized, make sure you are doing exactly what you need to do.

As you look at starting your own reptile rescue, you will need to look into what your local and state governments require of you to become a nonprofit organization.

Once you have this status, you can legally ask the public for donations.

It will give your organization a level of legitimacy, making prospective clients more likely to take you seriously as you look to re-home the animals.

Make sure you are following all legal aspects and getting all the correct permits to house the animals.

These permits and requirements will differ from one state to another, so do some research to ensure you are abiding by them.

Examine your space and determine how many animals you can care for and only take in what you can adequately handle.

Remember, reptiles need a fair amount of space to thrive, so be sure you can give this to them.

Creating a budget is also vital to ensuring you will have the money to provide the reptiles with the best possible care they can get.

This will also help as you find a veterinarian and any medical care the animals need.

Once you have examined all of these things and lined up a veterinarian qualified to care for reptiles, you are well on your way to starting your reptile rescue.

Questions To Ask Before Starting A Reptile Rescue

Understanding what it takes to start a reptile rescue is crucial, but if you are considering it, there are a few things you should ask yourself before you jump right in.

There is a lot to consider when you are looking at starting a reptile rescue, and they are questions you need to answer before you start.

There are many questions to ask yourself, but these are some of the most important.

Where Will The Money Come From?

When it comes to running a reptile rescue, you might never have considered a lot of expenses, and you need to think about where you will get the money to pay for all these things.

You will need money to cover all regular expenses related to the care of the animals, including housing, cage supplies, food, and supplements.

On top of this, you will have to pay for veterinarian bills, regular care, and those surprise visits you might have, and any medications the animals need after those visits.

Then there are the things you might not have thought of, like electricity for the location, advertising to find people to take the animals in, and gas money when you have to go pick up a new animal or drive them to the vet.

Reptiles are expensive animals, and you will need to find revenue streams to keep a rescue going.

Successful reptile rescues count on money from adoption fees, donations, and even their own money to keep their operation up and running.

If you don’t have money for proper upkeep of the animals, the building, and veterinary care, your rescue won’t last very long.

What Kind Of Space Do I Need?

Many reptile rescues tend to start operating out of someone’s home, and if this is something you are serious about, you will need to evaluate your own space.

If you have an apartment or rent a home, you will need to check with your landlord before you potentially have to house several reptiles on site.

Owning your own home will remove this step from the equation, but you will still need to determine how much space you have to house these animals safely.

Remember, cages and tanks are often bulky and often need to be large to accommodate reptiles.

Once you start growing and can look into purchasing a space to expand, remember this will be additional overhead but will allow you to house more reptiles.

What Happens If I Take In A Sick Animal?

When you are taking in reptiles, there are chances you will get a sick one.

This means you need to have a place to quarantine them from other reptiles in your care.

Do you have space and the equipment needed for a quarantine area to care for the sick animal?

On top of this, finding a veterinarian specializing in reptiles presents a challenge if you live in a more rural area.

When an animal is sick, the vet bills can pile up on you very quickly.

If you are lucky, you can find a vet who might offer discounted services to legitimate rescues, but this isn’t always the case.

Look at if you can care for multiple sick reptiles and find a veterinarian before you open up your rescue.

For some reptiles, it may be better to put them down instead of them suffering.

If this is the case check out our post on how to euthanize reptiles at home.

Do You Have The Time?

Caring for one reptile is often time-consuming for owners, but caring for multiples sometimes feels downright overwhelming.

They need to be fed, given freshwater, and have their tanks cleaned daily.

Add in going on runs to pick up animals or hosting potential adoptive pet parents, and your schedule will fill up quickly.

The more animals you are caring for, the longer it takes each day.

Many do this on top of having a regular job.

Volunteers can help with the timing issues, but this opens you up to other questions of where you find people and who you allow to help.

When you run a rescue, you don’t really get to take a day off, so make sure you are up for the commitment.

Can You Turn Animals Away?

Caring for these rescue reptiles is a great thing, but there are limits to what you can do financially and for your mental health.

If you only have room and money for a set amount of animals, will you be ok if you have to turn the next one away?

Taking in every single animal coming your way will put you in way over your head fast, and you are likely to feel overwhelmed.

Take the time to develop a network and contacts, so if you are in over your head, you can refer the animal to someone who has the resources to care for it.

Setting limits and sticking to them will help you better care for the animals you can take.

Other Ways To Help

If you aren’t ready to dive into creating your reptile rescue, but still have a passion for helping these animals, there are other options.

Look for an already established rescue or similar organization.

You will likely be able to volunteer at the rescue, fulfilling the desire to help, but on a smaller scale.

This will help you get your feet wet and understand what it takes behind the scenes to run a thriving rescue center.

Another way to help is by fostering reptiles who are waiting to find their forever home.

Fostering is one-way rescues can help more animals without having to house all of them at their site.

Of course, donating supplies or funds are always helpful to these organizations, but if you are donating supplies, check with them first to see what they need or items they prefer.

Regardless of how you are helping, continue learning about reptiles and how to care for them.

This will only help you as you pursue your dreams of opening your own rescue.


Starting a reptile rescue will require time, patience, money, and space, among other things.

Above all, you need to have an effective and strategic plan to ensure your endeavor is a success.

If a reptile rescue isn’t something you can start this minute, consider volunteering or donating to other rescues until you can make your dream a reality.

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