Slithering Pets

Kentucky couple organize
inaugural reptile show

They will bring their creatures
to Madison for September expo

(September 2014) – The first time he went to a reptile show, 26-year-old Joseph Routon overcame his fear of snakes. One of the vendors there talked him into handling a snake, a ball python. Soon he became a believer. “I bought a baby ball python there, and now I have six.”

Joe Leaan Routon

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Joseph and Leaan Routon of
Warsaw, Ky., pose with two of their ball pythons, Hercules and Juice.”

To the faint of heart, Routon gives the psychologically sound advice: “The best way to conquer fear is to embrace it.”
Routon and his wife, Leaan, 25, have organized the inaugural “Scales and Tails Reptile Expo” to be held Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Venture Out Business Center, 975 Industrial Dr., in Madison, Ind. With roots in the Madison area, they now live in Warsaw, Ky. 
As reptile ownership grows in popularity, the Routons plan to hold a monthly expo in Madison. This is the first such show they have organized.
The Routons say they hope the expo will draw lots hundreds of animal lovers, owners and other visitors. They plan for the event to be good and inexpensive family fun. They will give away a baby ball python, a tangerine leopard gecko and a bearded dragon at the event. There will be a disc jockey. WIKI 95.3 FM radio station will broadcast live from the event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. About $500 in other items also will be given away to visitors. 
A number of different breeders/feeders and supply vendors will be present at the show. The show offers wholesale prices. Admission is $5 per person. The event is free for children under age 10. Bearded dragons, leopard geckos, crested geckos, Iguanas, ball pythons, boas and dart frogs all will be sold at the show.
Dr. Theresa Gregory, an exotic pet veterinarian from the Crestwood Animal Hospital in Crestwood, Ky., will be present to give advice to visitors. At the hospital, she treats reptiles and other exotic pets, such as birds.
The couple decided to organize their first such show in Madison because “it’s smack dab in the middle of other shows” regularly held in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, Joseph Routon said.
All reptiles at the show will be in display cases. “They are tame,” he stressed. “They are not dangerous.”


Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Leaan Routon with “Widow,” an 18 month-old red citrus bearded dragon.

Overall, the popularity of shows has risen since the late 1980s. “If you look around Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, there is a reptile show every weekend,” he said. In the past 15 years, the reptile market has grown 30 percent.
The Routons compare their exotic pets to a dog or cat, pets more commonly found in the home.
“Ball pythons are more kid-friendly than dogs,” he said. “They are docile, calm and mellow.” He calls them the “puppy dogs of the reptile world,” while bearded dragons are “more like a kitty cat” because of their independence. Leaan added that the ball pythons “give the best neck massages.”    
Ball pythons “get into everything,” said her husband. One of his ball pythons got out of its container and disappeared into the house. A few days later, it was found hiding under the house.
The Routons have an 18-month-old son, Jaxon, who enjoys playing with the snakes. They are expecting another son in a few months.
Handling snakes can be therapeutic, the Routons say. Joseph’s 12-year-old brother, T.J., who has autism, opens up more when he plays with the snakes, Joseph says. “He plays video games all day long, but when he takes the snakes, he has a blast.” T. J. likes to take the snakes outside in the yard where he draws interesting comments from passersby. 
Joseph is a 2012 graduate of Ivy Tech Community College’s computer information technology program in Madison. He now fixes computers at home as a remote desktop technician. Leaan is a dealer at Belterra Casino in Florence, Ind. 
As a child, Joseph had a reptile. When he got older, he lost interest and developed a fear of snakes.
“I got back into it a couple of years ago with my first reptile, a Green Basilisk. I started picking up more and more (reptiles).” They now have a Nile Monitor that can grow to eight feet in length. They have a bearded dragon and the six ball pythons. They also have a green Iguana, three dogs (White German Shepherd, a shepherd/pit bull mix, and a terrier Papillion mix), one cat, a ferret and a new gecko.

• For more information on the reptile expo, visit: www.ScalesAndTailsReptileExpo.com.

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