Zoo Med’s Gary Bagnal Looks Back at 40 Years in Business

Gary Bagnall holding an adult rhino iguana (Cyclura cornuta ssp.) outside Zoo Med headquarters

Forty years is a long time for any business to survive, especially a privately held family operation, but Gary Bagnall and his company, Zoo Med Laboratories, are something special. From age 11, Bagnall worked in pet stores, and kept, traded and sold fish as a hobby. His natural love for exotic animals eventually extended to reptiles, which were then a relatively unknown and underappreciated pet. Bagnall wanted to change that.

In 1977, with a $300 investment, Bagnall opened the reptile import/export trading business In Cold Blood out of his one-car garage. Little did Bagnall know that this business would set the foundation for what would become Zoo Med.Through In Cold Blood, which evolved into the California Zoological Supply (Cal Zoo), Bagnall and his growing team helped introduce Pacific Island boas, coconut crabs, Egyptian Uromastyx, Egyptian tortoises, and the very first albino boa constrictor to the West.

In 1984, Bagnall made the conscious decision to split the company to better focus on animal care instead of import/export. The newly christened Zoo Med Laboratories was formed and released the world’s first multivitamin specifically designed for reptiles: Zoo Med’s ReptiVite.

ReptiVite solved a vitamin deficiency issue that was common in captive-kept reptiles that no other pet company had attempted to solve. ReptiVite was quickly embraced by both pet shops and reptilekeepers, and essentially created the reptile industry overnight and cemented Zoo Med’s place as part of it.

Zoo Med followed this success with another major release in 1993 with the introduction of the ReptiSun UVB 310, the first designated UVB lamp for reptiles and terrariums. The ReptiSun helped mimic and provide the sun’s natural UV-ray output—an essential element for healthy reptiles.

Other milestones for Zoo Med in the 1990s were the release of Zoo Med’s canned Can O’s reptile foods, ReptiBark terrarium substrate, Basking Heat Lamps, Natural Iguana foods, a natural mite remedy and ReptiSafe Water Conditioner.

With every new release, Zoo Med made reptilekeeping easier and, thus, the reptile industry more profitable. Zoo Med now sells products worldwide and continues to be a pioneer for exotic pet care.

Zoo Med wouldn’t be the company it is without the incredible team and friendships Bagnall has made over the years. Zoo Med is a team made up of reptilekeepers for reptilekeepers.

This article was contributed by Zoo Med.