When a particular animal species or breed gets a lot of attention, such as through a popular movie or TV show, there’s sometimes a major increase in people wanting one as a pet. The proliferation of Dalmatians after 101 Dalmatians, and people buying Jack Russell terriers in response to Eddie from Frasier are only two examples. Sometimes the trend is fine, but it can result in problems when people get breeds or species that really aren’t right for them (this was a big problem with the Dalmatians), and with puppy mills pumping out large numbers of poor quality animals to meet the demand. The problems can be even worse when an exotic species is involved.

Concern has been expressed about the potential for this to occur following the success of the animated movie Rango. The movie features a chameleon, a fascinating reptile but also one that is not that easy to properly maintain in captivity and, like all reptiles, carries a risk of Salmonella transmission to household members. 

PETA and some other groups have expressed concern about a PetSmart promotion whereby people can get a $10 discount on reptiles if they bring in a Rango movie ticket stubs. 

Any increase in demand for chameleons resulting from this promotion will be trouble, because:

  • Odds are most of the animals will not do well if purchased on a whim by someone who isn’t adequately prepared to take care of them.
  • Smuggling or legal importation of wild-caught chameleons will probably increase, with the associated very high death rates during the collection and shipping process.
  • Chameleons may end up in households where reptiles are not appropriate, such as those with kids under five years of age, elderly individuals, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems.

Hopefully the concerns are unfounded, but anyone considering purchasing a chameleon needs to carefully research the care requirements, be aware of the risk of disease transmission in the household, and should look for ethically sourced (i.e. captive bred and properly raised) animals.