Wild Animals Make Poor and Dangerous Pets
by Shelly Moore
published August 11, 2006 12:15 am
Wild animals are astonishing, beautiful creatures, and many animal lovers believe that having a wild animal as a pet would be a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, this is not true. Domesticating a wild animal takes hundreds
of generations. Wild animals and even those who were captive-born or hand-raised by people and have not adjusted to life with humans. They still have strong instincts that make them unsuitable as human companions. Keeping them as pets is cruel to them, dangerous for you and unsafe for the environment. Wild animals are unpredictable and routinely attack and seriously injure their owners, neighbors and bystanders. Children and adults have been mauled by tigers,
bitten by monkeys, and asphyxiated by snakes. In separate recent incidents in North Carolina, two children were attacked by exotic pets. In one incident, a 10-year-old boy was mauled to death by his aunt’s pet tiger.
In addition to the potential for physical injury, exotic pets are associated with serious public health concerns including polio, rabies, ringworm and tuberculosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reptiles are a source of human salmonellosis, which is often deadly. The CDC also warns that macaque monkeys can transmit the potentially fatal herpes B virus to humans.
When exotic pets escape or are let loose by frustrated owners, they compete with resident wild animals for the area’s limited resources. They can also spread disease to or even displace native animals, much to the detriment of the
In addition to the danger this practice creates for humans and the environment, it also involves life-long suffering and deprivation for the animals involved. The majority of wild-caught animals suffer injuries during transport and many die. Babies bred in captivity are often prematurely removed from their mothers and denied the natural socialization process required for normal development.
Wild animals kept as pets are deprived of the ability to freely engage in instinctual behaviors in their natural environment. Most of the animals are caged, chained or even beaten into submission. Individuals possessing exotic animals often will have an animal’s teeth or claws removed. Malnutrition, stress, trauma and behavioral disorders are common in exotics kept as pets and most veterinarians are ill equipped to treat them.
Many people who buy wild animals have no idea what they’re getting into and eventually want to relinquish their responsibility. However, there are no safe and humane options for disposing of these animals. Most humane societies aren’t equipped to handle exotic animals, reputable zoos cannot accommodate them, and dealers won’t take the animals back. There are a few sanctuaries for exotic animals, but space is very limited.
For these reasons, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have each opposed certain exotic animals as pets. Lorraine Smith,
Curator of Mammals for the North Carolina Zoo, agrees it is important for North Carolina to consider regulation of exotic animals to protect residents from illness or injuries, protect animals from negligent care and to protect our
native wildlife from disease or competition resulting from the release, intentional or otherwise, of exotic animals. Federal laws regulate the importation of wild animals but do not restrict or prohibit the practice of keeping them as pets. Many states have passed laws severely restricting or banning the private possession of exotic pets.
Although North Carolina does not currently have a statewide law concerning this issue, legislation was recently introduced in the North Carolina Senate that would direct the state department of environment and natural resources to
determine the best means of protecting the public against the health and safety risks posed by inherently dangerous animals. Concerned about public safety and animal welfare, local lawmakers recently passed ordinances regarding wild and exotic animals.
Buncombe County prohibits the private possession of any venomous reptile or any other wild or exotic animal, (which includes but is not limited to deer, lions, monkeys, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, tigers and snakes). The city of
Asheville prohibits the private possession of wild animals (which includes but is not limited to deer, lions, monkeys, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, tigers, venomous snakes and wolf hybrids). However, the city does allow citizens to
possess what it considers exotic pets (such as servals and pot-bellied pigs) if a written permit has been issued by the animal control administrator. Purchasing any wild animal as a pet may sound exciting, but it is not a good
idea. It is bad for the animals, bad for the owners and other residents, and bad for the environment.
Therefore, when considering bringing an animal companion into your home, resist the temptation to purchase a wild animal. Instead make the safe and humane choice, and adopt a dog or cat from your local humane society.
Shelly Moore has a B.A. degree from the University of Maryland and has completed the Johns Hopkins University/Humane Society of the United States Non-Profit Management Program. She lives in Hendersonville.
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