Wild animals are incredibly unpredictable. Even professionals educated in animal behavior with years of experience studying wild animals understand that precaution should always be taken. For that reason alone, most people would never consider purchasing a wild animal and attempting to raise it as a pet. Alas, there are some people who believe that by hand-rearing a wild animal from a young age, their bond with that animal will shield them from nay unpredictable harm. This naive notion is one of the leading causes behind the hundreds of incidents involving exotic animals and their owners which often end in severe injury or worse, death.
Most animals that end up as exotic pets are bought and sold through the wildlife trade. Unsurprisingly, most wild animal dealers don’t impose the dangers of keeping an exotic animal on the consumer, they are more focused on making a profit. As a result, exotic pets often wind up malnourished, abused and bored, all of which lead to a number of physical and mental afflictions. A life in captivity as a pet is no a life at all for a wild animal that has undeniable primal instincts that their owners can never appease.
Many people who own exotic pets also exhibit them for profit. Unfortunately, because of lax regulations for exotic animal ownership and minimal requirements to obtain an exhibitor’s license, roadside zoos and circuses run rampant in the U.S. Not only are these facilities harmful to animals, but they also pose a serious threat to the public.
One of the most recent and tragic examples of this occurred in 2011, when at least 49 exotic animals, including a baboon, Bengal tigers, lions and a pair of grizzly bears, were shot and killed by police in Zanesville, Ohio after their owner set them free before taking his own life.
During this time, Tim Harrison, of Outreach for Animals, had advocated for tighter legislation in Ohio to regulate the possession of exotic animals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until this tragedy occurred that legislators finally listened.
In many states, Ohio now included, it’s illegal to own an exotic animal. Still, not every state has caught up. Here are five states with the worst exotic animal laws:
The state of Nevada prohibits the private ownership of aggressive animals, including freshwater sharks and stingrays (yes, for some reason that needed to be regulated), raccoons and alligators. However, the state has little regulation on any other exotic animals. So long as citizens obtain a permit they can privately and legally own non-human primates, big cats, elephants and wolves.
The state of Wisconsin has the least regulation on the ownership of exotic animals in the U.S. While the state requires domestic and exotic pets to undergo a veterinary exam and receive a certificate of inspection (CVI), they do not regulate the private ownership of any exotic species.
Alabama doesn’t require citizens to obtain a permit or license for any exotic animal. Although they have restrictions on the animals that are prohibited from being sold possessed or imported, like the mongoose coyote and wild turkey, there is no regulation on non-human primates, big cats, wolves or any other large predator.
4. South Carolina
South Carolina regulates the sale and possession of wolves and coyotes. Additionally, bears, turkeys and mountain goats can only be owned with a required permit, however, there are no state regulations regarding ownership of any other exotic animal including non-human primates and big cats.
5. North Carolina
North Carolina regulates the possession of exotic animals by individual counties and cities. While one county may prohibit the possession of an exotic animal, the next may not. In many cases, the ordinances aren’t enforced even in counties or cities where it’s illegal, making it easy to transport exotic animals across county lines without penalty.
What Can You Do?
It is up to us to keep wild animals free, and well, wild. When we regard these animals as “pets” or “objects” that can be put on display for our personal entertainment, we belittle their worth and do not only these animals, but ourselves a great disservice. It should be common sense that keeping a lion in your backyard is dangerous for both you and your neighborhood but sadly, the novelty factor often trumps this logic.
The good new is that many states and municipalities are beginning to understand the threat that exotic pet ownership poses to their communities and imposing bans, but we still have a long way to go before animals are protected from being held captive as pets.
You can help by continuing to dissuade friends and family from purchasing exotic pets, whether they live in a state where it’s prohibited or not.
Lead image source: Wikimedia Commons