Board acts properly in denying permits
The Issue: Two city residents are refused permits to keep alligators in their row homes.
Our Opinion: Small homes and yards are not appropriate habitats for these animals, which don’t make good pets, anyway.
Reading’s Animal Control Board was absolutely right last week when it voted unanimously to prohibit two residents from keeping alligators in the city.
Perhaps more to the point, the board members nailed the issue with uncommon clarity when they said urban row homes are not the appropriate place to house such animals.
Forget claims by owners that they can control such animals. That is not the issue. The issue is what is best for the animals.
In one case, Horace Buckingham said he kept his 41/2-foot American alligator in a pool outside his house in the 1000 block of Cotton Street. In the other, Louis Jimenez kept his reptile — less than 2 feet long — in his house in the 500 block of Locust Street.
That is roughly the equivalent of trying to raise a Bengal tiger as a house cat. Sooner or later the animal will outgrow its environment, reach sexual maturity and escape. And when it does, there usually is a price to be paid, and more often than not, it is the animal that has to pay with its life.
Several years ago an Exeter Township man who owned two Nile crocodiles saw both of them escape from their enclosure by exhibiting behavior he never expected: One climbed over a heavy-duty wire fence and took a stroll in a wooded area near what was then the Reading Country Club. The other crawled under the fence and was found in a neighbor’s swimming pool.
A few years before that, a 7-foot, 160-pound pet alligator escaped from his Bethel Township home and took a stroll along Old Route 22.
Most owners of exotic pets don’t expect them to exhibit certain behavior, and when the animals do the unexpected, it is often too late.
Karel I. Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County Inc., said he expects to help Buckingham and Jimenez find new homes for the alligators, but the odds may be against him.
Most zoos won’t accept such animals because they already have as many as they can accommodate.
The pet trade is becoming a diminishing option as more cities such as Reading are taking an appropriate stand against exotic pets.
Releasing them into the wild — even in a warmer climate where they would have a chance to survive the winter — is out of the question. They probably associate humans with food and thus could cause a problem. Besides, there is no guarantee they could fend for themselves in the wild.
An alligator farm is probably the best option, but at such a place they are as likely to end up as a pair of shoes or a handbag as they are to live to old age.
Even if Buckingham and Jimenez were able to provide more appropriate accommodations for their alligators, there still would be the issue of controlling the animals. They just do not make good pets.
It is one thing to control a 2-foot or even a 41/2-foot alligator. But these animals can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds — females can reach 8 feet in length and weigh 160 pounds.
As we have said before, you may be able to train a wild animal, but you cannot tame a wild animal. And there is a vast difference between the two.
Just because an animal has been raised by humans does not mean that creature is tame. Even domesticated dogs and cats have been known on occasion to nip at their owners or a visitor. Why would we expect different behavior from exotics such as alligators?
Posted by readingeagle at June 14, 2006 01:00 AM
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