Terri Sommella, the breeder of Fire and Ice Dragons, told us that for our money we could purchase a top of the line raise up of a beautiful hypo-snow clutch. Our choices were a female for 500 or a male for 400. We went ahead and agreed that 500 dollars was something we were willing to spend on a premium animal. It hadn’t occurred to us that it was odd that she wouldn’t send us a picture of the animal at the time, we’ve heard a lot of people don’t. So… We were totally excited and set up a 40 gallon cage for a new little arriving baby that was 7.5 inches. We received the animal with a care sheet, and followed the instructions to the letter. The baby bearded dragon however did not eat for almost a week. We had consulted some breeders and they had said that this was ok and that the animal could take a while to adjust. After a week, I got very worried and decided to call the breeder. Terri’s tone was frantic and hysterical, which scared my boyfriend and I tremendously. We thought perhaps we were doing something wrong. We were in a state of anxiety for four days because she lacked any calm whatsoever, we thought the situation must have been really dire.
Terri began accusing us of not following the caresheet, when in fact, we had been following it. I asked her to present me with what I could do instead of what the care sheet said. She gave me a series of instructions, which I wrote down in my own notes, and then followed to the letter. My primary concern was the survival of the animal. It slipped past me that none of her instructions were on the said caresheet that came with the beardie. In an emergency situation we attempted everything she told us to. We got the temperature gradient perfectly, 80 in the cool spot 95 in the hot spot over the span of a 2x2’ cage. We ordered the worms that the beardie supposedly loved ($40 for 500 worms for the company that she told us to go through, because she always goes through them and those were the worms that the beardie loves! What a rip-off!)
Terri kept telling us the cage was too small and that we needed a 4’ cage for a 7.5 inch baby. We didn’t know what else to do at this point, and the beardie still wasn’t eating. We called the breeders we knew that bred beardies when in attempted conversations with Terri Sommella failed because she would not stop screaming at us over the phone, we felt we just had to do *something* to not let this baby die. The other breeders, including the wonderful guys at East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley all helped out in giving us tips with an animal they didn’t sell us. We tried those too. Still nothing.
Finally I attempted one more call to Terri to let her know that I wasn’t satisfied with the animal. Let me state that according to her guarantee on her website (www.fireandicedragons.com) she states that if the customer is not satisfied with the animal for any reason after a week the customer can return it for a full refund. Considering the animal wasn’t eating and I was not satisfied with either the customer service or the animal, I told her I wanted to act upon the guarantee.
Terri Sommella began screaming at me, spouting off things that didn’t make much sense, stating she was overworked and that I had “turned on her.” I had been so emotional over the well being of the animal and the whole ordeal of feeling guilty because it would not eat that I began crying over the phone attempting to explain I’d cried enough over the last few days feeling I was at my wits’ end in trying make this beardie eat and just live. I told her when I spent this much money on a bearded dragon I expected to at least have some kinder, more supportive customer service than to be screamed at and be accused of being cruel to animals because the animal wouldn’t eat. She retorted that I was blaming the animal when it was my fault. After a 15 minutes of my attempts to explain what I needed to have happen she wouldn’t even listen to a word I said yelling over my words uncontrollably screaming that I hadn’t spent any money whatsoever compared to her when she bought her first clutch. When I tried to explain that she was a breeder and I was just a hobby pet owner, she started screaming that I was starving and torturing the animal, and that she would absolutely not refund the money or return it OR exchange it. I tried to negotiate with her that I had been in fact, doing everything in my power from checking temperatures, to misting, to offering the animal all sorts of foods that she told me, to following her notes, the care sheet, the other breeders I was talking to that were trying to help. I didn’t think she could really get any worse. I was wrong. She screamed even more in tones of real anger things like, “How dare you speak to other breeders? That’s like saying you know my children better than I do.” Or, “You’re just trying to abuse me and I don’t need to take this from you anymore. I will not be stomped on and abused. My animal is perfect. I see what you are trying to do, you are trying to take the animal and just abuse the next one you get.” And many many other words that really hurt me. She stated clearly she wasn’t going to speak to me anymore and that all communication was over and hung up. I was standing in my kitchen over the dishes that piled over the last few days ( I didn’t’ run the dishwasher in fear that the noise would scare the new beardie two rooms away), feeling completely numb after an hour of being screamed at, accused of abusing the breeder and the animal, and being “her (Terri’s) worst nightmare” I called East Bay Vivarium in an act of desperation. I found out I could board her there while I disputed the charge of the animal with my credit card company. At East Bay Vivarium, when we recounted the story of our experience with Fire and Ice Dragons, they told us that it wasn’t a normal business transaction. We were told that what we’d gone through was rather horrific in fact. I was so shocked to hear that I wasn’t being cruel to the animal, and that it could have “just been a bad animal” that I didn’t know how to respond. We boarded the beardie at their facility and they were SO wonderful it was complete stark contrast to Terri Sommella whom HAD sold us the animal. I thought, “These guys are so supportive with an animal they didn’t even sell to me…. What’s wrong with this breeder? She won’t even speak to me in caring for this animal that she sold me!”
After almost two weeks, the beardie started eating, but they told me they were worried as well because she wouldn’t eat for almost a week in their facility. They were at a loss as to why the animal wouldn’t eat. They and a two other beardie breeder friends of my boyfriend’s confirmed that we had done EVERYTHING we could do, and everything they would have done. They also confirmed that Terri Sommella’s behavior was not professional in Herpetoculture when I asked if this was a normal occurrence in the reptile trade. (Hey, how would I know, I’m not a breeder!) Fire and Ice Dragons was a nightmare experience we’re still trying to recover from. We were told that we should tell our story to warn other people to be informed of what risks they’re taking in doing business with Fire and Ice Dragons.