Why exotic animals should not be pets
There is an allure to owning an exotic animal as a pet. Living in a world where individuality is desired, to obtain and own something unique and somewhat controversial is coveted.
Exotic animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, reptiles, non-human primates, belong in their natural habitats and not in the hands of private individuals as “pets”.
But why exotic animals should not be pets? There are many reasons, including the fact that by their very nature, these animals are wild and potentially dangerous, they do not adjust well in a captive environment(1).
The dangers of keeping exotic pets
The majority of states do not keep accurate records of exotic animals entering their territories. It is quite impossible to determine exactly how many exotic animals are privately held as pets, however, the estimated numbers are quite high.
Exotic animals do not make good companions. They require special care, housing, diet, and maintenance of which the average person can’t provide for.
In the hands of private individuals, these animals suffer greatly due to poor care. Alongside this, they inevitably pose safety and health risks to their owners and any person coming into contact with them for that matter(2).
People that realize that they can no longer care for an exotic pet, turn to zoos and other institutions such as sanctuaries to relieve them of the responsibility, in the best of cases.
However, the zoos and accredited institutions can’t possibly accommodate the number of unwanted exotic animals. Consequently, the majority of these poor animals are euthanized, abandoned, or doomed to live in deplorable conditions.
Public safety risk
Exotic animals are inevitably dangerous to the individuals who possess them, their neighbors, and to the community at large. Across the country, many incidents have been reported where exotic animals held in private hands attacked humans and other animals.
They escaped from their enclosures and freely roamed around the community. Both children and adults have been mauled by tigers, bitten by monkeys, and asphyxiated by snakes.
By their very nature, exotic animals are dangerous. Though the majority of exotic animals are territorial and require group interactions, an exotic pet is typically isolated and spends the majority of its time in a small enclosure, unable to roam and express natural behaviors freely. They are basically time bombs waiting to explode.
Human health risk
Exotic animals pose serious health risks to humans. Many among them carry zoonotic diseases, such as Herpes B, Monkey Pox, and Salmonellosis, all of which are communicable to humans.
In the case of the Herpes B-virus, around 80 to 90 % of all macaque monkeys carry it, or Simian B, a virus that is harmless to them but fatal to humans.
People who possess or work with infected monkeys are presumed to be in constant peril of potentially contracting the virus. Bites from non-human primates can cause severe lacerations(3).
Wounds may be infected, potentially reaching the bones and causing permanent deformities. The frequency of bites remains a mystery, though, it is widely known that non-human primate bites are among the worst animal bites, little research regarding them exists.
Estimates suggest that around 90% of all reptiles carry and shed salmonella in their feces. Iguanas, snakes, lizards, and turtles are common carriers of this bacterium, Salmonellosis.
Reptiles that carry salmonella do not show any symptoms, thus it is very hard to detect it, for even those that have it may not necessarily shed the bacterium(4).
What can you do?
It is common knowledge of how much damage can be done when an irresponsible or uneducated citizen acquires an exotic animal to keep as a pet.
Though some families have lived peacefully with these majestic beings, these cases are rare, and in the end, these animals are still wild and deserve their freedom.
Apart from this, there are also cases where families have lived in peace with exotic animals, but their behavior can change very quickly and unpredictably(5).
These animals are not suited to be kept as pets, and sadly, once they are raised in captivity, they can never be released back into the wild. Protecting the wild populations of any species does not entail keeping them in captivity as pets.
If you want to help such animals, we must dissuade the public from buying exotic animals to reduce the demand that is currently fueling illegal wildlife trade.
If you want a pet, perhaps it is best to consider adopting one of the millions of domestic animals waiting for homes in shelters. It is our responsibility to keep wild animals, wild, and free.
Did you know?
– Millions of wild animals, including reptiles, large felines, nonhuman primates, and others, are kept in private possession in the U.S. The trade in exotic animals is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry.
– It is estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 tigers are kept as “pets”, more than there are in the wild.
– Animals enter the exotic “pet” trade from a variety of sources. Many are simply stolen from their native habitat; some are “surplus” from zoos or menageries; some are sold at auctions or in pet shops; while others come from backyard breeders. The Internet, sadly, has dramatically increased the ease with which people can find and purchase wild animals for their private possession.