The October 18, 2011 news out of Zanesville, Ohio shocked us all. A man who took his own life first set free dozens of exotic animals from his 73 acre private collection. Tragically, 48 of the animals had to pay with their lives to ensure public safety.
While this situation is extreme, accounts of deplorable conditions for captive exotic animals and situations of unsafe encounters with exotic pets are common. These instances include cruelty, overbreeding, animal attacks, poor conditions and reckless behavior. We can join numerous organizations that are helping get out the word about the pitfalls of owning an exotic pet.
- Refuse to buy exotic animals as pets.
- Do not visit or patronize roadside zoos and menageries that breed or display animals for profit.
- Spread the word on your Facebook page or Twitter: Keep wild animals in the wild!
- Learn about the pitfalls of owning exotic animals at: ASPCA , Born Free USA, DoSomething.org, International Fund for Animal Welfare
- If you already own an exotic pet, check out the recommendations at Born Free USA for humane treatment and proper living conditions. If the animal becomes too much to handle, contact a reputable wildlife sanctuary. Never release an exotic to fend for itself.
Why it Matters
Most people don’t have adequate space, environment, or diet required for exotic animals to thrive. Many monkeys, birds, and wild cats, for example, all can travel several miles in a single day. A small cage in the yard isn’t good enough. Animals kept in inadequate conditions fail to express normal, species-specific behaviors. Barren pens provide no stimulation and can result in dysfunctional behaviors.
Exotic animals often cannot receive proper medical care. DoSomething.org says “It’s also difficult to tell if some species are ill (a turtle doesn’t cough), and laws against owning exotic pets could keep people from taking them to the vet.” In some cases, a zoo veterinarian may be the only resource with experience and equipment necessary to treat an exotic animal.
Exotic animals kept as pets: Honey bears, sugar gliders, black panthers, pot-bellied pigs, cheetahs, wolves, bears, lions, tigers, chimps, cougars, monkeys, alligators, flying squirrels, bearded dragons, veiled chameleons, spotted pythons, leopard geckos, poison dart frogs, rosy boas, corn snakes, green iguanas, venomous snakes and other reptiles.
According to the ASPCA, 77 to 90 percent of reptiles harbor salmonella. Many macaques carry the Herpes B virus. Exotic animals can infect humans with chlamydia, giardia, yaba virus, hepatitis A, rabies, ringworm, tuberculosis, measles, monkey pox, marburg virus, streptothricosis, and more. Some are fatal to humans.
Exotic animals are unpredictable, and rarely bond with their owners. Animal bites, scratches and attacks are common. In recent years, people have been mauled by tigers, attacked by monkeys, and bitten by snakes, just to name a few. View a comprehensive list of all Exotic Animal Incidents that Born Free USA tracks.
Taking the animals from their native lands disrupts the ecosystems from which they are taken. The imbalance effects the food chain and may also result in species becoming endangered.
If an exotic animal escapes, it can also disrupt the ecosystem to which they have been taken. The animal can spread diseases to native species, or could kill native animals and free-roaming pets. Setting the animal loose is also cruel to the animal, since he or she is not adapted for the habitat.
Exotic animals are not good pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association all oppose the private ownership of certain exotic animals.
The best thing we can do for exotic animals is keep them in the wild, where they belong.