Kaitlyn Lyle / Lantern reporter
With the number of snakes that were in the Columbus Moose Lodge 11 on Saturday, one might think it was a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, but in fact, it was the All-Ohio Reptile Show.
The family-friendly event, established in 1988, is held once every month in Columbus.
The Columbus show is the largest and longest running monthly reptile show in the U.S., said MT Schwartz, head of public relations for the All-Ohio Reptile Show.
Vendors are required to pay a $35 monthly fee to display their reptiles at the show, and visitors are charged a $4 entrance fee. This money funds advertising for the show and covers the cost to rent the venue. Vendors receive all the proceeds from their individual sales, but the show itself does not make a profit, Schwartz said.
“Each one of the people in there are basically a small business. There’s no large corporation. There’s two pet stores, everybody else is a small business, out-of-their-home type of person,” Schwartz said.
There are no permits needed to hold the show, and no added precautions that the show must follow, Schwartz said. Venomous reptiles are prohibited.
However, under Section 1501 of the Ohio Administrative Code, there are stronger restrictions on the selling and owning of reptile species native to Ohio.
Vendors with species native to Ohio must be inspected regularly and have licenses to sell the reptiles, according to the Ohio Department of Natural resources website.
“Most people don’t own native species because of that whole licensing issue and the requirements with it,” Schwartz said.
While the majority of animals at the show are reptiles, visitors can also find rabbits, ferrets, possums and birds from various other vendors.
Along with the shows, visitors can buy supplies for their pets as well. Aquarium tanks, cages and heat lamps for reptiles can be found at various booths around the venue.
According to those involved in the show, the reptiles there should not be termed exotic. But because some are not Ohio native species, they are addressed in Gov. John Kasich’s new legislation, proposed in response to the recent release of 56 dangerous exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio.
“They’re definitely not wild, dangerous animals, I mean, these are pets,” Schwartz said.
The legislation was signed into effect by Kasich on Friday. Though the new legislation does not ban owning or selling wild animals, it attempts to restrict wild animal auctions and shut down illegal auctions. More legislation on the matter will be proposed by Nov. 30.
Vendor Greg Osterbrock owns Chirp N Time Cricket farm, a local business that raises crickets and mealworms to sell to reptile owners.
Osterbrock left his full-time job installing aerospace machines to devote his time to his bug business. He says that if there is a ban on owning “exotic” reptiles, it will severely impact his business as well.
“That’ll cut three-fourths of my business out. I do have a fishing industry that buys my bugs too, but there’s not enough in the fishing industry to keep me busy,” Osterbrock said.
Some visitors come to the show just to get crickets for their pet reptiles, Osterbrock said. Vendors at the show buy from him as well.
The reptile show is the largest in the U.S., and sees vendors and visitors from other states such as New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, Schwartz said.
“That’s one of the things people don’t realize, the impact on the economy. You’ve got people here who are using hotels, paying hotels to come to the show, using gas, all that… it’s a whole economic impact as well,” Schwartz said.
Some other vendors at the show, unlike Osterbrock, have full time jobs apart from selling and raising reptiles.
Amy Zerkle runs Zerkle Reptiles & Tropical Fish with her daughter Brittany Zerkle and her husband Rob Zerkle on her time off from her full-time job at Aquarium Adventure on Dublin-Granville Road.
Amy Zerkle agrees that the new legislation could negatively impact her business breeding and selling fish and snakes, and is glad she has another job to rely on.
The next reptile show is Nov. 19 at the Columbus Moose Lodge 11 at 1500 Demorest Road.