Student entrepreneur opens reptile themed cafe to challenge negative impressions of exotic animals

PETALING JAYA: Pet cafes have gained popularity in Malaysia, with one of the latest in Selangor being a reptile themed establishment.

Fangs by Dekori in Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya opened in December 2022 and is owned by 21-year-old Yap Ming Yang, who said the cafe aims to challenge negative impressions of reptiles.

“I have always been fascinated with reptiles, which is why I am studying for my Bachelor of Science degree and majoring in tropical environmental biology at Monash University.

“My interest in exotic pets inspired me to start the cafe so patrons could safely observe snakes and spiders while enjoying a drink or dessert and chatting with friends.”

The cafe features a diverse collection of exotic animals, some of which were previously kept as pets. They include snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, geckos and bearded dragons.

“The animals do not require a licence to own and are available at most pet stores. They are also not subject to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2022.

“Even feeding them does not incur much cost. For instance, the snakes only need feeding once every two weeks.”

Yap said he has a letter from a veterinarian supporting the opening of his cafe and attesting to his professionalism and expertise in handling exotic animals, which assures patrons of his ability and experience.

“After presenting my proposal to the relevant authorities, they conducted thorough assessments to ensure I adhered to safety standards, hygiene protocols and regulations governing the keeping of exotic animals.

“Only after confirming all safety aspects were addressed and all requirements would be met did I get the approvals.”

As a standard operating procedure, patrons are instructed to wash their hands before and after interacting with the animals.

They are also only permitted to touch the animals after their meals to avoid contamination.

Veterinarian Dr Ali Imran Razali said if animal cafes do not follow strict guidelines, diseases could spread from the animals to the patrons.

“Bacteria such as salmonella may be harmless in a reptilian gastrointestinal tract, but it could be dangerous to humans. The (transmission) could happen through a faecal-oral route and may result in severe gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting and, in worst-case scenarios, blood poisoning.

“These cafes are a creative way to attract patrons, but they must adhere to strict health and safety guidelines to protect them and the animals,” he said, adding that as long as business owners have professional experience in handling exotic pets, their expertise would ensure the well-being of the animals.

A Subang Jaya city council spokesman said pet cafes must practise health and safety standards and maintain animal welfare.

“Business owners must ensure controls are in place so that there is no disruption to public peace.”

The spokesman said those who wish to open similar cafes can apply for a business licence at https://ezy.mbsj.gov.my/lesen.

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