COLUMBIA, SC — Adamanteus the golden retriever rested on the floor feet from a table of piles of venomous snakes on Saturday at Repticon, a reptile and exotic animals convention and sales show.
Adamanteus is named for an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which is crotalus adamanteus in Latin.
The 13-year-old dog has been around snakes since he was a puppy, and his owners, Matt and Paula Crews, had a booth of venomous snakes and other reptiles at Repticon representing Wild Things Exotic Animals in Florida.
Tons of vendors and reptile enthusiasts visited Repticon, a two-day event at the Jamil Shrine Temple in Columbia, marked by a giant, blow-up cobra snake out front Saturday.
Tony Bell said he has been a reptile breeder and dealer since 1958 and was selling a few of the 700 or so snakes he owns at Repticon.
He said breeders, while selling the animals as house pets, also are preserving species that are becoming extinct in the wild.
He first got interested in snakes in the Boy Scouts and enjoys educating people about the reptiles.
“I think reptiles are the most misunderstood and persecuted animals on earth,” Bell said.
Shelby Songy agrees and wanted to make sure her 9-year-old son Stephen would not grow up under the misconception that snakes are slimy and scary.
Stephen got a second snake at Repticon because his dad is going to be deployed to Afghanistan in a couple of months, so he is being spoiled, said Stephen’s 14-year-old sister, Savannah.
Savannah loves snakes, too, and gets to play with her brother’s pets without the responsibility of feeding them – that’s his job, she said.
Their mom said their dad likes the snakes, but “he’s just worried our house is going to turn into a zoo.”
Repticon was like a zoo, but with a lot more snakes out of cages.
John LeBron of Gaia Exotics, also based in Florida, helped sell scorpions. He said they are easy to collect and don’t require a lot of space.
“Just like one person collects baseball cards, one person collects scorpions,” LeBron said.
And if people decide they can’t take care of their reptile collection, Chad and Cristina Griffin had a booth set up to collect animals for a CCSB Reptile Rescue and Rehab Center.
Cristina Griffin said they had collected a boa and an iguana Saturday, and that it was always emotional when people had to turn over their pets for various reasons, such as having to move.
The center takes the pets back and then re-adopts them out to a new forever home, like an animal shelter for dogs and cats.
Across the exhibit hall, brightly colored dart frogs were for sale – and are easy to care for, said Cassie Craig, the daughter of the owner of Carolina Dart Frogs in Greensboro, N.C.
“You don’t have to take them on walks or scoop their poop,” Craig said.
Carlton Thompson, popularly known as Gamecock Jesus, for his loyalty to the University of South Carolina athletics teams, attended Repticon with his wife, Judi Thompson.
Judi Thompson went to pick up supplies for her two turtles, Izzy and Duzzy. The names are short for “stupid is” and “stupid does,” she said.
The couple looked at the animals at Repticon and Carlton Thompson thought the snakes and other animals were creepy, but Judi Thompson said they were beautiful.
She joked about taking them all home.
Ryna Fisher from Athens, Ga., drove about three hours to get to the event.
She bought a citrus cross-bearded dragon because she wanted to get back into reptiles. She had a 25-year-old ball python that died about 7 years ago.
She bought the lizard because she can’t bring herself to get another snake.
“You get attached to them like a dog or a cat,” she said.
Reach Cope at 803-771-8657.