Whether you are looking for a pet for yourself or for your child you want to always make sure that you choose a safe pet. That said, there is a lot of confusion about the safety of certain pets and this is especially true for pet lizards. With that in mind, I am going to do my best to answer the question: Is it safe to have a lizard as a pet?
Some lizards are safe pets as long as you follow proper handling and hygiene practices. However, many popular pet lizards such as iguanas and monitor lizards can be dangerous especially if not properly cared for. Though many pet lizards can develop bad behaviors when neglected the larger-sized lizards are more dangerous simply do the amount of damage they can impose.
That said, this does not mean that all large lizards do not make good pets for the right person. However, I would personally recommend staying clear of certain types of lizards if you are a first-time reptile owner. This is especially true if you are looking for a pet lizard for a small child.
Unfortunately, some of the most popular pet lizards such as the Iguana can be unsafe. Unfortunately, they are often recommended to kids even though they are one of the worst choices for someone looking for a friendly pet lizard. That said, if you are experienced then there are some awesome large-sized lizards that make good pets, but leave these to the pros for now.
Are Pet Lizards Dangerous
All pets can pose a risk to some degree. It is not uncommon for someone to develop a serious illness after getting scratched by a common house cat. Or injured because of an untamed aggressive dog. However, we think about these pets being safe pets simply because we are used to them. It is true that they are typically pretty safe pets to have around the house when properly trained. But all pets can pose a risk.
When it comes to pet lizards there are so many different types of lizards to choose from. The truth of the matter is that some species are much safer options to have as pets than others are. For a full list of my top picks for beginners and kids check out my article: Best Pet Lizards For Kids and Beginners here!
But simply put a 10-inch leopard gecko is going to be much safer to have around the house than a 6-foot long iguana that has a whip for a tail. That said, even the safest pet lizards can pose some risk. But for many of them, this has more to do with proper sanitation before and after handling your pets. A risk that often comes to mind with reptiles is contracting salmonella from your reptile or their droppings.
Reducing The Risk Of Samonella With Pet Lizards
So even if you purchase one of the safer pet lizards such as a leopard gecko or bearded dragon you still want to make sure you keep up with certain safety protocols. Here is a list of some of the basics of reducing your chances of salmonella that you might want to consider from the New York State Department Of Health:
- Always wash your hands before and after touching your pet lizard or anything in their enclosures. You can also use hand sanitizer after washing your hands as well. If you are a parent make sure that you supervise the hand washing of your children.
- Wait until a child is older than five years before letting them handle a pet lizard
- Avoid pet lizards if you have a child under 5 in the house with a weakened immune system
- Do not touch your face or mouth during or after handling a pet lizard
- Do not let lizards freely roam the house
What Are The Safest Pet Lizards To Have As Pets
Like previously said all pet lizards pose some sort of risk just like any other pet. Much of this has to do with simply making sure to wash your hands and keeping things clean. That said, there are other factors or owning a pet lizard that can cause some safety concerns. Things such as getting bitten, clawed, or whipped by a tail are just a few things.
However, it might not be a big surprise that some species of lizards are safer options than others. Even though some species of large lizards such as the Argentine tegu can make excellent and friendly pets, larger lizards are simply more dangerous.
Because of this, I would not recommend any of the larger-sized lizards for first-time owners or for small children. The largest-sized lizard I would go for would probably be a bearded dragon or a blue-tongued skink. These are really great options for beginners and kids that are mature enough to handle them.
The good thing about the size of these lizards is that they are not so big that they can do serious damage to you ( though a bite might not be pleasant ) but not so small that they can get easily hurt by a child. Often it is the small lizard that should have the safety concern more than the owner.
That said, if your child is mature enough not to squeeze or crush a smaller lizard there are some other great options as well. A few that come to mind are the leopard gecko and the crested gecko. Though there are certainly others. For more check out my full list of recommended lizards for beginners.
Lizards That Are Not Safe To Keep As Pets
There are too many pet lizards to name that I would not recommend for a newbie. However, I will mention a few popular species that are often sold to kids as great pet lizards that are not the safest options. The number one pet lizard that is popular that I would stay away from is the Green Iguana. In fact, it is more likely than not that a green iguana will show at least some signs of aggression.
Often times they can be extremely aggressive even if you did a decent job with caring and handling from a young age. On top of that green iguanas get huge and have a tail that is basically a giant whip. Lastly, they can do some serious damage with a bite as well. I know that some people love their iguanas and have had a good experience with them but they are not a good choice for a beginner and certainly not for a small child.
Big Lizards Are More Dangerous
I would also recommend staying away from most monitor lizards as well. Many of them can be docile and good pets but they are not for beginners and some monitors get really big. There are smaller species such as the Ackie monitor that would make a better option, but if you are brand new to reptiles I would still probably choose something else instead.
The fact of the matter is that large lizards are simply capable of more damage. This does not make them bad or aggressive simply because they are large but they are just not as safe options. A bite from a large monitor lizard could have you missing a few fingers and getting whipped by an iguana could cause stitches or worse.
This is not to say that you can never own a larger lizard but it is not where I would start. It is also not wise if safety is a major concern, especially if it is for a child.