Skunks! Dragons! Sugar Gliders!

Strange Species in a Small Pet Store

Joe Averso’s shop, NJ Exotic Pets, in New Jersey, sells strange pets and critters that you would usually only see on TV.  While most people say that dogs, cats, fish and  hamsters are the best pets, some say that’s not true. That is why Joe Averso opened his store for people who like snakes, marsupials, hairless rats, and even skunks! In his store, Averso has many varieties of unique pets from species of animals from all over the world. He once had three coatimundis, raccoon relatives from South America, in his store! Averso said, “You would never find a coatimundi in Petco.” He purchased the animals from a Florida Breeder and sold them for $2,000 each.  Although NJ Exotic Pets has been only been open for a little longer than a year, Averso has been in the pet store business for over 15 years. He has noticed that  younger customers will pay higher prices for unusual and unique pets. His top sellers are little creatures called pocket-pets, which are small animals that can fit in a pocket, such as hedgehogs and sugar-gliders.


NJ Exotic Pets has many hard to find animals, such as sugar-gliders and “super-rare” striped possums, which he acquired from his Florida Breeder that he sells for $2,500. Earlier this year, he received a hard-to-get licence to sell skunks.  The price ranges from $650 to $950, depending on the color and markings, and Averso has already sold 35 of them! To help work with the skunks, Averso works close with a veterinarian, Christopher Stancel.  Before the skunks are sold, Christopher takes the scent glands out of skunks and makes sure they can’t reproduce. Because people want skunks, Megan Zayatz, 29, gets the tough job of cleaning the skunk cages and managing the store. “People think it’s a cool job because you get to play with animals,” said Zayatz. She started working in pet stores at age 16. “But you don’t have time to play with them, and you touch poop with your hands.”


Some customers drive 20 miles just to see the pet store! One was customer Chelsee Firestone, 18; she and her friend wanted to see the snakes. “I first came here looking for ferrets and ended up falling in love with reptiles,” Firestone said. When asked if she owned any, she took a corn snake out of her pocket. It eats hairless, newborn mice called “frozen pinkies.” Averso’s store has many creatures, and if you ever drive by Lodi, New Jersey, be sure to drop in!