Omg lol I’m not even going to answer this one.
The pet community here on tumblr really does love its callouts, and I have mixed feelings about this. This is a good example of a badly-planned one, and so I’m gonna write another weird, rambling essay about the animal community on tumblr. On the one hand, we all want the best for the animals we love to look at. This is why we jump on people keeping beardies and leos on sand and why we get so upset when people smoke around snakes. I think that this is good- it’s good to correct general ignorance, especially in super dangerous situations. This is why I really like blogs like notactuallycute- they promote discussion about animal behaviors that many people might know are signs of stress and discomfort.
But on the other hand: sometimes you’re wrong. Keeping a beardie on sand? Easy callout. But when you do something like this, all you do is upset the keeper and make yourself look pretty awful. So, before you call out a situation that you think entails bad animal husbandry, please consider these points:
1. Do I know the whole situation?
In this case, it’s a clear no. This person didn’t bother to assess the blog and look at any of the writing on husbandry or care, and this leads to some fairly awful gun-jumping. Before you ask these questions, do a bit of research on your own. Find out about the animal’s life and circumstances- maybe they are posting progress pictures of an animal’s recovery, or maybe they’ve just taken in a rescue animal.
2. Am I familiar enough with this animal’s anatomy and morphology to even attempt to guess if it’s healthy?
You know why you can’t take a photo to the vet? Because you can’t diagnose a photo. Sure, some things are obvious- taking a look at my own history, it becomes pretty blatant that at some point, Kaiju had something wrong with her lip. I’ve had people ask if it’s MBD- but if you take a good look at her older pictures, it’s clearly not. (It’s a lip wound that she got when she panicked outside, by the way. I never actually did address this on the blog.) Gross swollen toes from gout, weird foot angles from MBD- these things can be obvious, yes, but generally, playing armchair veterinarian and taking that authoritative tone doesn’t really work. In this callout, Odin’s been called fat. However, in any of the pictures where he looks kinda chubby in the gut, he’s sleeping. Monitors pancake when they’re comfortable and asleep- a happy monitor is a puddle of warm scales. If you’re going to call out something physical (or a behavior), you need to be extremely familiar with that species and be willing to do the research legwork to back up your point. A good pet owner has done this research and is familiar with different signs of stress and body language indicators of relaxation.
Furthermore, Odin’s face is said to look concave. This can be a sign of dehydration… or it can be a sign of “I am a savannah monitor please look at my beefy ridgy skull is it not fabulous.”
Take a look at this picture.
This is a savannah monitor’s skull x-ray from a large project on lizard jaw morphology done by Casey Holiday at the University of Missouri. Please notice how bony the area above the eye socket is. Look at that big chunk of bone behind the eye and the sharp ridges surrounding it. Take a look at how deep-set the eye is. Savannah monitors have very hooded eyes- they’re supposed to! Odin’s face looks like he has big ridges of bone surrounding his eye socket.
For comparative purposes, here’s a tegu.
Along with an adorkable smile, tegus don’t have those big ridgey attachment points up top. If Kaiju’s eyes were as deep-set as Odin’s, I’d be worried, because she’s not supposed to look like that.
Now, the critic has blanked out their tumblr (that or it’s just not working on my laptop’s versions of Chrome and Safari), so I don’t know if they’re really an expert on lizard morphology or not. But what I do know is that there’s a clear difference between a lizard with sunken dehydrated eyes and a lizard with big ol’ eyebrow ridges.
3. Have I read their FAQ?
Again, this is a clear no. Had this person read the FAQ, they would have seen Odin’s diet clearly listed and thus would not have needed to be concerned about his diet. They would also have seen the size of the enclosure and would have known to actually go and look for the pictures. Reading the FAQ is important- it’s there for a reason and can answer many of your questions about how an animal is treated.
4. Is what I am about to say or do harassment? Does what I am about to say turn me into the bad guy?
Once you’ve called somebody out, let it drop for a bit. Seriously. You don’t need to be hounding their every move. Give them time to respond. Continuing to send angry messages isn’t good for anyone and might actually enforce bad husbandry because the person in question will be too upset to change anything. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar- try to be kind while also having compassion for their animal. Centering the animal is also important- defend the animal, don’t attack the owner. You’ll get nowhere. ”Hi! Your gecko is cute, but is that sand in your enclosure? If you didn’t know, sand is linked to impaction, which is very often fatal- I’m sure your little friend would be much happier on slate tile or paper towels!” is much more conducive to good husbandry than “Are you trying to kill your gecko? Sand kills them, idiot. You should really just give your gecko to somebody else if you’re just going to abuse it.” The callout above is between these in tone, but it’s still pretty aggressively rude. In this example, the barrage of questions at the end was really pointless- it’s all there in the FAQ- and honestly just serves as something to psych out Odin’s mom. I want to believe this person had the best of intentions going in, but this is written less like a question about Odin and more like an attack. And this isn’t even half as nasty as some of the other callouts I’ve seen! Also, please don’t confuse this type of advice with tone policing. This isn’t an argument about tone and oppression, it’s an argument about using basic manners when trying to correct somebody’s animal husbandry so that they don’t shut down and write you off as a jerk.
Also, if you’re being harassed: block the offending party and turn off anonymous asks. Just block them on your tumblr, your instagram, wherever you go and find them. There’s a clear difference between a concerned individual asking about care and somebody being self-righteous and set on criticizing you no matter what. You can report them if they continue their behavior as well.
Now, obviously, these are just my opinions. Maybe I’m wrong, but here’s my thoughts on it regardless. You are of course entitled to yours as much as I am entitled to mine; if you think it’s best to go in with an assertive position to establish your authority, then by all means do what you think is best! But just keep in mind that communication in a public forum like this is a very public two-way street. A little kindness goes a long way, y’know?
Rebloging this because it covers some things I didn’t cover and it is beautifully written! Thank you kaijutegu! ^_^