Cold-blooded companions

Local business specializes in snakes and lizards as pets

Ron Greenberg hangs out with a corn snake at his reptile shop.

Ron Greenberg hangs out with a corn snake at his reptile shop.

PHOTO by vic cantu

Ron’s Reptiles

To make an appointment, call 893-2095 or send an email to

Look up “Ron’s Reptiles” on Facebook.

When most people think of companion animals, they think of something that they can pet, cuddle and have follow them around as a furry member of the family. But if you’re looking for a less-emotional relationship with an animal, or you want something prehistoric-looking in your home, then Ron Greenberg of Ron’s Reptiles is your guy. With more than 1,000 snakes and lizards (plus about 2,500 feeder mice and rats) and even a few turtles and tortoises occupying his home-business, Greenberg says he has the largest collection of reptiles in California north of San Francisco.

“Reptiles are nowhere near as responsive as dogs or cats,” Greenberg said. “But people buy them for their ease of ownership, companionship, value or simply as a different type of pet.”

He says that snakes are the easiest and cheapest reptiles to raise. The supplies are minimal, and they need to be fed only every week (for young ones) or two (for adults). Lizards require a little more investment—daily feedings, plus special UV lighting to simulate sunlight. Reptiles are often a good pet choice for college students living in temporary housing that doesn’t allow dogs or cats.

If you’re thinking of getting one, the friendly 67-year-old Greenberg is the local authority. He and his wife, Donna, have operated the pet store/reptile zoo out of their house for 12 years. The now-retired department manager for a local insulation company said he’s been collecting and selling reptiles since he was 12. As a kid he lived in what was then a sparsely populated San Fernando Valley, where, he said, snakes and lizards were easier to find than kids. He soon discovered a strong demand for them as pets, and proceeded to get his license to import reptiles at age 15.

“In high school I made more money in two days than my friends would in a whole week,” he said.

Greenberg also took pre-veterinary medicine courses in community college.

At his business, the reptiles are everywhere, both inside and outside his house, many on display in glass terrariums with natural rocks, dirt and foliage. Some of the more unusual specimens are his two 50-pound African spur-thighed tortoises, his 13-foot-long reticulated python, and his largest lizard, a 3-foot-long Argentine tegu.

“[Reptile] owners range from everyday people to rich doctors and lawyers, and spend anywhere from $39 to $10,000 for them,” Greenberg said.

The most common beginner reptiles that he sells are the corn snake ($39, plus $75-$100 basic setup) and the prehistoric-looking bearded dragon (or Pogona) lizard, which is the most popular reptile pet in America ($59, plus $150-$175 for basic setup). The lizards are very friendly, don’t bite, and eat ordinary fruits and vegetables.

But, Greenberg warns, before buying a reptile—especially a snake—be aware that people have strong reactions to the slithering pets.

“Many more people are afraid of snakes than love them,” he said.

Greenberg said he’s known people so averse to snakes that they’d change lanes while driving just to run them over. He also admitted that, when they were newlyweds, his wife’s slogan was: “The only good snake is a dead snake.” Now she likes them.

He said he has a talent for helping others overcome what is known as ophidiophobia.

“Give me 20 minutes and I’ll try to change your fear of snakes,” he said, explaining that by calmly and gently introducing them to the reptiles, people will often realize that snakes are “not as evil as they’re made out to be.”

For those unsure about owning such a pet, Greenberg says he’ll loan a snake or lizard out for several weeks or months to help a person find out if it’s a good fit.

“The only thing you’ll have to pay for is the food,” he said.