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3:25 PM   April 26, 2015
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Preventing Indoor Air Pollution

Herp habitat designs augment old-fashioned elbow grease to help keep stores free of odor.
By Karen Shugart

For many years, manufacturers have tried to design in-store herp habitats that help control smells and allow for easier, more thorough cleaning.

Fans and charcoal filters are two components in-store herp habitats can have to help control odor.
Courtesy of Companion Habitats Inc.
One important feature, they have found, is ventilation, said Jeremy Moser, director of marketing for Corona, Calif.-based North American Pet Products, the parent company of habitat manufacturer Zoo Quality.

“Some people will skip on it, but it really does make the store smell better,” Moser said.

Ideally, a retailer could install ventilation so that odors can escape outside the store. If that’s not possible, filtration is even more important, he added. His company also includes a carbon-filtration box in many of its custom-designed units.

“That does help neutralize odors if you can’t vent outside the store,” he noted.

Many retailers vouch for the importance of choosing the right habitat to control odor. Pat Taimuty, president of McMurray, Pa.-based retailer Wet Pets and Friends, said her store’s buyers keep odor control in mind when purchasing units for retail use. The store last purchased Companion Habitat units.

A Guide to Successful Cleaning

No amount of odor-reducing products can eliminate the need for basic cleaning. Without a good housekeeping regimen, a stench of slothfulness will set in at any store.

“We’ve tried different things, and really, we just get back to housekeeping,” said K-ann Harry, vice president of Jack’s Aquarium and Pets, a retailer based in Beavercreek, Ohio. “We’ve found that to work better than anything.”

John Emberton, co-owner of East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley, Calif., offered this as his store’s housekeeping motto: “If you can smell the tank, you waited too long to clean the tank.”

Pet smell isn’t necessarily the same as pet stench, however, according to Allison Karnowski, co-owner of Scaly Dave’s Herp Shack in Manhattan, Kan.

“As my husband [and co-owner Dave Karnowski] says, you don’t go into a Pizza Hut expecting it not to smell like pizza,” she said. “And you wouldn’t go into a pet store and expect it not to smell like pets.”  —KS

“They’re very nice units,” she said. “They’re enclosed. They have the heat, they have light, and they have fans.”

Companion Habitats’ most recent entry to market of in-store herp habitats is the company’s Imagination Series Critter Condos. Margi Senior, national sales manager for the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based manufacturer, said the Critter Condos, which can be used for a variety of species, have several features that help control odor.

These modular units each include a base unit that features fans on each side. The fans circulate air within the cages and draw it out, eliminating stagnant air in the habitat. The air is pulled through odor-absorbing charcoal filters that need changing every 30 to 60 days, depending on the species housed inside the units. The units are also made of vacuum-formed plastic that doesn’t retain odors the way other building materials might, Senior said.

“This unit allows you to have an odor-free store and an odor-free unit if you take care of it properly,” Senior offered. “It’s very versatile. You can choose which cages you want to put in the base unit, which is on wheels, so it can easily be moved from one area of the store or facility to another.” 

Companion Habitats has made units with filters and air-circulation mechanisms. What sets the Critter Condos apart, she said, is their price point, which is below $4,000. The units’ mix-and-match flexibility is unique as well, she said.

There is no substitute for good, old-fashioned elbow grease, though.

“Like anything else, you have to keep up with it in order for it to be truly odor-free,” Senior noted. <HOME>

Karen Shugart writes about the pet industry, as well as for daily and weekly newspapers.

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