Animal Exchange (301) 424-PETS  
Small Mammals
Fish & Herptiles
Dog & Cat Supplies
Annual Store Events
Tip Sheets

Store Hours:
Mon., Thurs 10-8
Wed., Fri., Sat 10-6
Sun 11-3
Closed Tuesdays

(301) 424-7387

January 21, 2016

Snowstorm Warning

With a big snowstorm coming here are a few tips for your pets:

— Have extra pet food in your freezer just in case.

— Power failures and falling temps will cause Birds and Mammals to eat more to keep their body temperature up.

— Reptiles can be put in a cloth bag securely tied and you can provide the heat they need. Yes, sleep with your snake…

— Birds need light to eat. Keep them in a bright area. Covering at night will help retain the heat they generate.

The animals at the store will have extra supplies in their cages with special attention going to extra water bottles for Guinea Pigs and other heavy drinkers while birds will have extra surfaces of food  e.g. spray millet. We may not get in on time but we will be here!

July 28, 2014

35 Years…

Please forgive me if I reminisce about the last 35 years of Animal Exchange in Rockville, Maryland…

In 1979, I had been working for three years at Gaithersburg Pet Center (GPS), originally part time to distract myself from my father’s battle with cancer. When it became apparent that I could do a better and more honest job on my own, I offered to purchase GPC for $35,000, but was turned down by the owner who subsequently sold it for ¼ million. I began searching for my own space, not realizing that many landlords, including Giant, would not lease to a pet store! Finally a realtor got me a space of 1500 sq ft in the back of the Ritchie Center. The managing partner had recently absconded leaving 2 investors on their own. Fortunately they did not know to ask for a business plan or even a financial statement, neither of which I had or understood.

The initial check for rent was written and before it was even cashed, I secured 424-Pets as the phone number with the phone company and then went looking for money. It turned out that a wife was not a financial entity and even with securities in hand, no loans were offered. My Mother was 76 at this point but agreed to lend me enough to open the doors, and we did on August 5, 1979!

Much of the building, painting, and display were done by my son Daniel, 14 at the time, and me. We hung pegboard from the ceiling, designed and built the small animal racks that are still in use today, and stocked the shelves with the help of owners of four other pet stores. The Fire Marshall wanted us to use fire proof peg board (non-existent) and install sprinklers until we pointed out that neither was required for our space. The City of Rockville assured us there was no Pet Shop License (two years later they realized their mistake) and we ordered our Psittacine Permit from the State (later changed to include all birds). After $27,000 the store opened fully stocked with birds, small animals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Using my Mother’s retirement money made me very nervous so I repaid that during the first year instead of paying myself. By year three, when the adjacent store became available, we doubled our size and gave the groomer a separate section. Salt water tanks were becoming readily available so Mother and I signed up for a Marine Biology course Cornell offered in St. Croix and expanded from fresh water fish into salt water.

Seeing the salt water fish in their own world was so inspirational that in 1985 Mother and I took off to see our Australian bird species in their country. What a fabulous experience! New Zealand had the most amazing collection of birds owned by a private individual and many private collections of finches and parakeets. And yes, we did see even more salt water fish!

The first local organization we joined was the Rockville Chamber of Commerce. As Legislative Vice President, I had been addressing animal related legislation and also local issues such as sign regulations. In a 1989 Chamber meeting, I learned the Budweiser Clydesdales would be in town for the Hometown Holidays parade on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. They were available Friday afternoon so I rounded up Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clerics for a 4:30pm Blessing of the Animals at the store. Wow, what a way to celebrate my 50th Birthday! We’ve done blessings ever since.

Here are the Budweiser Clydesdales at Animal Exchange's 1st Blessing of the Animals.

The next few years, as Mother went through her 90’s, we learned about fractured hips as she recovered from hers and began walking again. When she hit 98 years old, I could not continue with seven days a week at the store. Mother needed attention.

Packing up 3000 sq ft after 22 years to squeeze into 1800 sq ft was not only a logistical nightmare but very costly.  We discontinued fish, reptiles and amphibians, and a lot of dog, choosing to specialize even more in birds and small animals and so we have for 13 years.

Small business is tough. The only business harder than Pet is Restaurant. We’ve had extraordinary good luck and support from a clientele of honest, altruistic, and very intelligent people. Our goal of selling only locally raised animals is here with every bird, from our Umbrella Cockatoo, to all the parakeets bred by customers. The mice and hamsters are bred with focus on behavior and genetics. We never have animals that we do not love and appreciate the great homes they go to. Okay, so it was really hard to have our Hyacinth Macaw Andy go to a new home after 22 years, not to mention Buttons, the Sulfur Crested Cockatoo that was ours for 28 years.

So as we celebrate 35 wonderful years, we give thanks for all the amazing animals that have passed through our hands and all of you who love pets too!


June 22, 2013


Filed under: Bird Care,Reptiles,Small Animals,Store News,Uncategorized — admin @ 12:31 pm

Do you have a favorite pet photo? Be sure to enter it in the Animal Exchange photo contest that is open thru July. No picture? Well go take one and send it in. We cherish this opportunity to see our actual customers that you all love so much.


Animal Exchange now has 16 different videos on our YouTube channel with more than 1 million viewings. We hope you have seen and benefited from these videos that have information based on many of the questions we answer every day at the store. There is always so much more to learn about animals and not a day goes by that each of us here does not pick up some good idea in the store. Please let us know if you would like us to cover another topic that is a particular interest of yours.

October 14, 2010

October 19 Science Cafe

Filed under: Reptiles,Science Cafes,Store News — admin @ 1:46 pm

Want to hear all about the Science Expo coming to the National Mall in DC on October 23-24? The Coordinator, Larry Bock will be with us at Branded ’72 at 7 PM on Oct 19 to tell you about all the exciting exhibits and activities that will be happening there. Join us for a fascinating picture of what’s new in the world of science and research.

More info? Call Ruth at 301-424-PETS

October 14, 2009

Hermit Crab Costume Contest

Filed under: Reptiles,Store News,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:14 pm

Halloween is almost here and once again we are giving your Hermit Crabs an early opportunity to Trick or Treat. Get them decorated and dressed up and bring them to Animal Exchange October 25, 3:00PM for all the fun.

This year, for the first time you can rent a crab to dress. Just come to the store after Oct 17. We will charge you for the crab but refund all but $1:00 when you return your crab, win or loose.

May 30, 2007


Filed under: Reptiles — admin @ 10:09 am

 Turtles?  Yes Turtles!  First a bit of history…

     When I was young, I would spend hours choosing the prettiest turtle at Woolworths.  They all had wonderful designs painted on their shells and I could not understand why they all died so soon.   Of course the reason was the shell could not grow.

     When painting was stopped around 1950, I could still buy the little 2″ turtles.   They lived longer even though the standard diet was only ant eggs.

     In 1975, the Maryland State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Kenneth Crawford noticed that young children were being treated for salmonella that he associated with these little turtles.  He instituted a ban on all turtles in Maryland.  Subsequently, the Centers for Disease Control regulated that only turtles 4″ or larger could be sold legally in the U.S. (Too large to fit in a childs mouth!)

     The Maryland Association of Pet Industries (MAPI) negotiated with the State Health Department for 6 years, meeting monthly and finally in 1993 they agreed to permit sales of turtles over 4″ in Maryland if we posted a sign warning about salmonella.

What is the situation today?

     Turtles are sold in some Maryland stores.   They are mostly large red eared sliders or the adult breeding population of turtles imported from Russia, Vietnam, and other countries.  These large turtles require spacious enclosures (one customer has a built in pond in his family room), expensive lighting, and routine cleaning.   And because of the Maryland Regulations, it’s illegal to breed them.  (Turtle condoms anyone?)

     So why do we carry turtle food and supplies for small turtles?  Because our customers buy them in Chinatown in New York and from street vendors.  They are usually purchasing them on impulse, with no concern for long term survival, but as a novelty “toy” for a child.  We work hard to educate them, encourage them to at least purchase a book and basic supplies but we are not always sucessful.  How much better it would be if we could sell these baby turtles to someone after we’ve had a chance to explain their care, their ultimate size, how to house them and keep them clean (ask us about our customers clever trick).

     Currently the two senators from Louisiana (Landrieu and Vitter) have introduced legislation to require the FDA to permit the sale of baby turtles.   The turtle famers have worked hard to reduce the salmonella incidence and once again make these interesting little pets available.  We support their efforts.