"". UA-20896369

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Exotic Animals As Pets: An Unregulated Risk

We chose to copy this headline from an opinion piece in the New York Times verbatim-how could we improve upon it? The author, Peter Laufer, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, is no  stranger to the often lethal mixture of "exotic" animals and humans: he's spent the last several years interviewing people around the country who choose to own these animals, and unfortunately, Terry Thompson, the fellow who recently sent his wild animal collection to their deaths in Ohio, is not unique.

Laufer raises some interesting points we hadn't thought of, like these: many owners convince themselves that they have a special relationship with their wild animals because they've raised them from babies, and that these bonded "pets" would never turn on them or anyone else when they reach adulthood. There's also another psychological component: "controlling an animal that arouses fear in other people can be appealing." Remember those "lion tamers" at the circus? Apparently, both controlling a powerful wild animal and watching that animal be controlled gives humans an ego boost. (Not so Parental Unit, whose parents took her to the circus that came to town when she was about seven or eight...they didn't stay long because young Parental Unit burst into tears at the sight of lions, tigers and elephants being threatened with a smacking whip.)

What we particularly love about this piece is both the opening and the ending: Laufer initially asks us to imagine both the panic and terror felt by the animals "as they were chased and then killed by police", and the "heartbreak of the police officers who were obliged to destroy the rambling menagerie." He then closes with the admonition that "It's past time to regulate the wild beasts: us."

Photo courtesy of AP Wire Services

Meanwhile back in Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch reported today that a committee comprised of government and animal interest groups had reached a consensus (although they had not officially voted), to "ban new private ownership of big cats, bears, wolves, primates and venomous snakes." People who currently own these animals would be allowed to keep them. We think this is a step in the right direction-what about you? We write about this issue not because Bocci's Beefs intends to focus on wild animal regulation, but we think that it at least tangentially affects everyone who cares about animals, whether domesticated companion animals or wild, and well, this tragedy happened practically in our own back yard!

On a lighter note...don't forget that you have until 6:00pm EST to enter our FURminator, FURDRY wearable towel giveaway...and we'll announce the lucky winner tonight! Check it out here: www.boccibeefs.com/2011/10/new-furminator-towel-review-and.html


Random Felines said...

We kept reading about people getting mad at the police - really??? They were doing their jobs - or were people waiting for some kid to be mauled before it was OK. The wrong part about this was that this guy was ALLOWED to have these animals. And saying Ohio is going to restrict NEW ownership doesn't fix much....how about something to protect those animals currently owned that may be in similarly very bad situations? This never should have happened - and there is not fault to the animals or the police....

Sagira said...

I liked the sign I saw on Facebook where it said welcome to Ohio where you can own exotic animals but Pit Bulls must die. We sure do have some backward laws around here, don't we?

Two French Bulldogs said...

We saw this too, nutty
Benny & Lily

Cynthia Downer said...

While I see and understand why this law is coming into effect, I disagree with it. There are responsible exotic animal owners, and there are irresponsible exotic animal owners.

Responsible exotic animal owners will never tell you that they believe their animal would "never hurt them". Exotics are wild, and they aren't very far, if at all, removed from their wild instincts.

I operate this way with my snakes. I watch for body language, and I'm smart when I handle them. I touch them to let them know that I'm there, and I know that any day I may get bitten and it won't be their fault.

Heck, I even apply the same general caution with dogs and cats. As domesticated as they are, they are still somewhat attached to their wild instincts and the truth is that they are a different species than us and they cannot always communicate to us, "Hey! I don't like that person, and I may bite if he gets closer" or "I'm really scared and you shouldn't touch me"

I wouldn't put it past the gentlest labrador OR tiger to bite me and/or take my life. If you are acting stupid and unaware of the possibilities around any animal, there's a very real chance you will get hurt.

What do I believe is the solution to the irresponsible exotic animal owners? Mental stability testing(ego issues?), thorough knowledge/biology testing on the animal one intends to keep, and frequent and unannounced inspections of the equipment and facility. Now because of the stupid people, responsible people will have to suffer.

Bocci said...

Good points all-keep them coming!

Renee DeMartin and Mugs said...

Except C. Downer, there is a real difference between a dog or cat that has been domesticated for thousands of years and exotic/wild animals as pets. Of course one watches the behaviour of domestic animals to assess moods, something many people don't bother to do anyway. Keeping a wild animal and I'm thinking here of the large carnivores, in a small cage and by small I mean as opposed to the miles of territory these critters roam in the wild is inhumane and irresponsible. Unless one has a specialized license to keep and train animals for the film industry, for instance and they are regulated and inspected, there is no reason for your average Joe Blow to keep exotics.
In Florida, people turn their Boa Constrictors loose when they no longer wish to keep them and they are thriving and decimating native wildlife.
I say state wide bans are in order.

Cynthia Downer said...

You're right, there is a really big difference between a wild animal and a domestic animal. A wild animal is much more likely to attack, which is why the keepers must be extra cautious.

I'd love to know when we started thinking that it was okay for zoos to keep animals in small enclosures and display them to the public, who knock on glass, throw trash into exhibits, are a general nuisance and stresser yet it is not okay for private owners to keep their exotics in similar or larger sized enclosures minus all of the annoying kids with the addition of more one-on-one care, ability to research the animal's diet, enrichment, and health more vs a zoo needing to research the same thing about dozens of different species, etc.

Please read this blog post(not mine) and compare the habitat of the San Diego Zoo's capybaras to that of Melanie's capybara, who is a private owner.

Turning wild animals loose is another example of irresponsible owners.

Post a Comment

We love hearing from you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...