If you’ve ever wanted a pet monkey, you’re in luck.Mike Freedstover, owner of MC’s Exotic Pets, a pet store that opened last month in downtown Lewiston’s Newberry Square, can help you select the type of monkey to get, obtain the required permit and get one in for you.
But first, he’ll probably try to talk you out of it.
“They’re like a small child that never grows up,” he said.
Monkeys require unending amounts of attention, get into all kinds of mischief and, to top it off, they smell terrible, he said. They’re really not a good fit for most people but if someone thinks they’re an exception, Freedstover can help make it happen.
Freedstover, 19, is a lifelong Lewiston-Clarkston Valley resident who started helping people find pets three years ago after dropping out of high school. MC’s Exotic Pets is unlike most pet stores in that it doesn’t have many animals in stock. That’s because the focus of business is on exotic rescues, special order and education.
Animal shelters don’t generally accept exotic pets, Freedstover explained, so people who no longer want, for example, the corn snake they bought from a pet store a year ago, tend to either neglect their animals or release them into the wild, where they either die or thrive, throwing off the balance of the local ecosystem. With his store, Freedstover provides a place to bring these animals so they can be re-homed.
In addition to placing rescue animals, Freedstover can work with customers to help find a pet that suits them well, including hard-to-get pets. Some exotic pets, like a lemur, require a permit. Laws vary by state, and fees and the amount of required paperwork depend on the type of animal. Freedstover aims to help potential pet owners navigate that process.
Freedstover plans to educate the community by helping customers select an animal that can successfully be a long-term pet. Eventually, he would like to develop a collection of exotic animals that people can interact with — things like snakes and lizards or even lemurs and marmosets — both at the store and though educational programs in schools and other organizations. And he believes a zoo could be in the valley’s future.
“The LC Valley is growing, so we’re trying to find something to grow with it,” he said.
Exotic pet Q&A with Michael Freedstover
Q: What are some of the more popular pets?
A: Hedgehogs and sugar gliders are big right now. Freedstover has a waiting list for a local hedgehog breeder who expects to have some available in the spring.
Q: Why do you not recommend sugar gliders as pets?
A: These small marsupials that can glide through the air are irresistibly cute, hence the current popularity. But they require a lot of time and attention that most people just can’t give, Freedstover said. They smell bad and need to be kept with at least one other sugar glider. Kept alone, a sugar glider is likely to self-mutilate and die.
Q: What is the most common pet purchase mistake local people seem to make?
A: Iguanas. Most people purchase them from a pet store when they’re small without realizing how big they get, Freedstover said. One that starts out in a smaller aquarium can end up needing its own room if it lives long enough. The same can be true with monitor lizards and larger snakes.
Q: What pet do you recommend most often?
A: Crested geckos. They don’t require heat, have a simple diet and are easy to interact with, Freedstover said. Bearded dragons and some other types of geckos can be similarly easy to care for.
Q: Is is legal to own a venomous snake?
A: In some cases, yes, but almost all of them require a permit. For those interested in owning venomous snakes, Freedstover recommends getting a hognose, which he says looks like a rattlesnake and acts like a hooded cobra. They don’t require a permit and its bite is only mildly venomous.
Q: What’s one pet you can’t have in Washington or Idaho?
A: Foxes. Foxes can make good pets, Freedstover said, describing them as a mix of a cat and a high-energy dog in terms of the pet experience. The Fennec fox is the only type of fox that can be legally owned in Idaho and Washington.
Q: What veterinary options are available for exotic pets?
A: Freedstover can give ideas for basic care for many of the animals he sells, but when veterinary expertise is required, he recommends taking exotic pets to the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman.
Q: What are the main problems people run into with pet ownership?
A: Environment and diet are two big issues, especially when it comes to exotic pets, Freedstover said. Owners need to provide the correct diet, an adequate space that is clean and appropriate heat. The other problem most pet owners run into is a lack of time, both to care for and bond with their pet. Some pets need more attention than others, so it’s an important factor to consider when selecting a pet.