Credit: Carl Perry

As the proud owner of a lizard and many other reptiles over the years, I’m keenly aware of how difficult it can be to find a good pet store. Too many exotic “specialists” treat reptiles like stock, buying from sketchy dealers and warehousing them in cramped cages. Or, like at a couple of chains that shall remain nameless, animals are frequently pawned onto impulse-buy customers who may have seen a cool YouTube video or two but really have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. 

Credit: Carl Perry

Lucky for us, Pet House in Goleta is one of those rare places where snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other wonderful scaly things are humanely kept and sold to educated buyers. “We know where we get our animals from,” said owner Andrea Navarro, “and we always make sure our customers know what kind of care they need.”

Navarro, who started at Pet House as a cashier 19 years ago while majoring in aquatic biology at UCSB, bought the Calle Real shop in January 2021 from its previous owner, Wendy Guyer, a licensed veterinary technician with meticulously high standards for animal care. Navarro is maintaining that tradition, and as a lifelong lover of all animals but especially frogs, she is the perfect kind of person to oversee the store’s happy and healthy collection of reptiles and amphibians, not to mention its rich menagerie of birds, fish, rats, and other small mammals.

Pet House mostly carries the types of snakes and lizards that are hardy, easy to handle, and make for great first pets, explained Navarro, who also met her husband at the store and now has two kids, aged 9 and 11. That means leopard geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes, and ball pythons. They’re beautiful, docile, and you never have to worry about walks or litter boxes. Plus, there’s the undeniable cool factor. “They’re definitely cool,” Navarro agreed, “but I always definitely encourage people to think before they commit, because some of these guys can live 10, 20, 30 years.”

Credit: Carl Perry

For those looking for something a little more advanced, the shop also offers veiled chameleons and rainbow boas, as well as the more “oddball” offerings, as Navarro described them, like Guyana pink toe tarantulas and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. They intentionally don’t carry anything that will grow too massive, like monitors or sulcata tortoises, she said. 

Staff take pride in designing and building their in-store terrariums, Navarro went on, and they source plants from the nearby Terra Sol Garden Center. Their “feeders” (i.e. crickets and mice) come exclusively from a seller in Agoura Hills who they’ve known for years. While the pandemic caused the price of reptiles across the country to double and even triple as people picked up the hobby and supplies suffered, the market is finally starting to settle down, Navarro said. And even though their overall business suffered, Navarro and Pet House’s staff of 10 managed to always keep the doors open. They now offer pickup and delivery service as well.

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