Lone Star Scales and Tails offers unique experiences


Katelyn Spivey

The Lone Star Scales and Tails animal sanctuary allows visitors to experience interactions with numerous species of animals up close.

The door jingles, signifying the entrance of a new customer. Immediately, the strong scent of animals hits my nose. Too focused on the getting used to the pungent odor, I hardly noticed the peacock observing me to my right and the chicken greeting customers on the front desk directly in front of me.

Welcome to Lone Star Scales and Tails located at 1008 S Adams Street in Amarillo. Although seen as a zoo, it could not be further from it. Zoos have exotic animals, yes, but zoos do not typically encourage people to touch, hold and sit on the animals. Yes. Sit on. This is an animal sanctuary.

Entrance is $10 per person, which seemed a tad expensive at first, but the price is well worth the experience. This sanctuary houses animals of all kinds: ones you might keep as pets, like guinea pigs and cats, and ones you might never see in your life such as lemurs, llamas and kangaroos.

Visitors can experience three rooms while at Scales and Tails. The first room probably has a name, but I cannot remember it, and it has such a large variety of animals, the largest of the three, I couldn’t even make a guess. The second has animals someone might see more regularly such as goats or rabbits or a friendly skunk. The third room is the reptile room with lizards and snakes galore.

The peacock, llama, lizard, lemurs, rabbits, hedgehogs, turtles, ducks and some of the chickens call the first room their home. The closest enclosure from the entrance has some turtles, which I quickly found out could be sat on thanks to information provided by a young volunteer who said the shell can withstand the weight of a baby elephant. As I sat down on its shell, I thought the turtle might move, but he didn’t even give me the satisfaction of acknowledgement. Apparently he is used to being sat on.

Visitors can interact with the majority of animals present, some with the help of an employee and some without.

— Katelyn Spivey

Because there are so many unique species to visit, spectators of all ages can enjoy the sanctuary. Children who might be skittish around the lemurs leaping up the side of the enclosure can relax while petting a bunny or a chick instead. Visitors can interact with the majority of animals present, some with the help of an employee and some without. The rabbits, turtles and some of the other less exotic animals are easy to find and enjoy, but hedgehogs or snakes may require some assistance.

I had no fear of holding the rabbits or even hedgehogs (though the cute little guys were a bit prickly), but I did not intend to hold a snake. I do not have a fear of snakes, just a general dislike and distrust of the wriggly creatures. When entering the reptile room, I intended on making a quick lap around the room and bolting back to the safety of the llamas. Sadly, my plan did not pan out. I entered the room, made it halfway through my lap and got stopped by some volunteers telling me about the facts of the animals. I think they sensed my fear by the nervous laughter and sarcastic comments about holding the snake. Before I could muster up the courage to run away, a snake was placed into my hands. I was uncomfortable as the snake wiggled in my hands, but looking back on the experience I am thoroughly proud of myself and thankful for the kind workers who pushed me out of my comfort zone.

While holding the animals is fun, the zoo offers a unique experience involving the lemurs. For $25, two people can enter the lemur enclosure to hold, play with and feed them. This frightened me at first. I didn’t know much about lemurs except how they looked, and they have sharp teeth and claws. But, the creatures I watched did not seem any meaner than my dog at home (a tea cup Maltese who barks a lot but only for food). They slept cuddled up with each other until they heard people, which prompted them to start swinging and climbing, showing off to our delight.

We didn’t realize how sweet these creatures were until one of the employees walked into the enclosure with them.

— Katelyn Spivey

We didn’t realize how sweet these creatures were until one of the employees walked into the enclosure with them. Instantly they jumped to his shoulders, scurrying up and down his body, holding onto him with human-like hands until they finally settled down from the excitement. Set with one lemur in each arm, the man kissed and hugged each of them as if they were puppies. He started explaining other facts about the lemurs, but I had trouble focusing on anything other than the snoozing fluff balls and how they were nothing as I expected them to be. Needless to say, I regret not paying to experience the lemur encounter, but I fully plan on it at my next visit.

The most spectacular thing I witnessed on my visit, though, was not an animal at all. It was the love and respect for the animals shown by their handlers. The caretakers have relationships with the animals which go past feeding and cleaning cages; they truly love the animals and the animals seem to reciprocate the feeling. From the lemurs who jumped wildly at the sight of their favorite worker to the hedgehog which snuggled into the hands of the zoo’s owner, watching the interactions made me love the animals all the more. Each worker or volunteer was knowledgeable about the animals, shared fun facts about their personalities and encouraged us to feed and hold the animals while also befriending the visitor. By the time we left the zoo, I felt like I had new friends, both animal and human.