The reptile hobby is booming! With Ball Pythons dominating the market due to their ease of care and endless color combinations, there’s a handful of breeders that like to break the mold and diversify their collections and projects. Andy Grossman of Pets At Sunset is one of those breeders who does it all.
How do you introduce yourself and your work?
My name is Andy Grossman. I am the owner and operator of Pets at Sunset. We are a private collection of hand-selected reptiles. My goal is to better understand the life cycle and captive propagation of pythons and boas and to make unique-looking animals through captive breeding.
When/how did you first get interested in reptiles?
Like every kid: as soon as I discovered dinosaurs! Growing up I used to go out and find any animals I could. Frogs and salamanders were always a treat, but following a garter snake as it traveled through the grass was the highlight of my day. Just the fluidity of their motion could captivate me for hours on end.
What made you want to take that next step into starting a business?
In my day-to-day life, I am a retail manager in a rather large hardware store. I see the profits and losses and know where I have to have my margins to continue to open the doors and turn on the lights. My plan, originally, was to open a full-line pet store where I could house my collection and produce animals for the store, and I was building towards that.
Over time, I decided that having to look at living things as merchandise on a shelf and treat them as if they were CD players was just something that didn’t sit well with me. I got my business license, so I am legitimately paying taxes and I can vend shows and sell and ship animals. But for us it has become a labor of love done every evening after work. Showing a loss financially is acceptable, because the profit is from seeing pictures from happy owners of animals we have produced.
What was the first species you bred?
Geckos were my first reptiles. I had a pair of Goniurosaurus hainanensis and a pair of Goniurosaurus luii – part of the Chinese cave gecko family. When I got them, I heard a lot of stories about keepers having difficulty keeping them from overheating, but our climate up here proved ideal for maintaining cage temperatures. Our first year of breeding produced 36 babies.
What have been your favorite animals to breed and work with?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. Everything we keep and breed, my partner and I do so because we truly love having that animal in our collection. Each species has its own rewards. I love Antaresia pythons for their personality and the challenge of getting the babies established. I love ball pythons for the amazing pallet of colors and patterns there are to choose from. Finally, I love boas for their overall gentle temperament and the experience of live birth.
How many animals do you currently have?
Our current collection has about 100 adults and sub-adults that make up the breeding colonies, as well as offspring that are either going to be held back for future selective breeding or sold once they have established as a thriving, feeding animal. The 2016 season was one of our bigger years yet with over 150 babies produced.
Where do you see the herp hobby going in the next 5 years?
I see a lot of keepers refining their collections, specializing in one or maybe a few species, and getting away from the warehouse-breeder mentality. Not that there isn’t a place for people with giant collections. But I think it will be better for the hobby overall if people just kept and bred what they loved and didn’t worry about what is popular and trendy.
What advice do you have for people who want to start a business breeding herps?
Do it because you love it. Because you can’t imagine not having them in your life. Do it because you wake up at 2 AM thinking about it. Don’t look at it as a method of getting rich, because anyone who has been at this long enough can tell you: the guys who truly make big dollars at this are few and far between. The days of $50,000 mutations are pretty much a thing of the past.