Backyard wildlife shouldn’t be secret

Backyard wildlife shouldn’t be secret



Published September 19, 2007



Too often, government’s actions defy logic. A state commission Thursday rejected a rule requiring the owners of exotic wildlife to notify neighbors if they keep a dangerous animal on the property. That means an entire class of wildlife – tigers, lions, bears, rhinos, gorillas, even the Komodo dragon – can live, even escape, in our communities without any public notice.


The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bought the canard by animal owners that such a rule violated their rights, an assertion so ridiculous it takes a bite out of common sense. The rule was appropriate and reasonable. It would have required owners to notify neighbors the wildlife was there and to alert police, fire and animal control authorities in the event of an escape.


"There are probably pit bulls out there that are more dangerous than what some of these people are keeping," commissioner Ron Bergeron said. He misses the point. The wildlife commission doesn’t regulate the pit bull as Class 1 wildlife. Leopards, jaguars, elephants and buffaloes are in a different class. As we saw last year at Tampa‘s Lowry Park Zoo, when a tiger escaped and was shot to death inside the park, even the best facilities are vulnerable to human error. Killing the rule only saves the owners a momentary hassle and a few bucks.


A commission spokesman said Friday the board may consider a watered-down rule in December. It would require notification to authorities only in an emergency. That doesn’t do the neighbors much good. The public deserves to know where these animals are, and it shouldn’t take a crisis for communities to safeguard themselves. The commission should revive the rule in December.


In the meantime, think twice before you look over the back fence.








Jennifer Hobgood, Ph.D.


Regional Coordinator


The Humane Society of the United States


Southeast Regional Office


1624 Metropolitan Circle Suite B


Tallahassee, Florida 32308


(850) 386-3435


(850) 386-4534 Fax



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