Alright, let’s do a quick poll. Who in their lifetime ever entertained the idea of having a pet tiger? Maybe it was after you saw a movie as a kid or maybe you went to a zoo once and thought, wow – I wish I could have one in my backyard! Given the absolutely beauty and wonder that is inspired at the mere sight of these animals, it is entirely understandable. But the majority of us probably realized at one point or another that while the idea of having a pet tiger might seem appealing … not only is it not practical (hello, have you seen tiger claws?!) but it’s also not fair to the animal. In the wild, tigers are the rulers of their territory and they play a vital role in their ecosystems.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped everyone from pursuing their dreams of owning one. This story from Texas illustrates exactly what can happen when people do keep these animals as pets.

Two residents of Conroe County (a suburb of Houston), recently came across a young tiger cub running through their bushes. When they noticed she was wearing a collar, they approached her and the cat immediately ran up and started licking their hands. Clearly, this baby tiger was used to being around humans. After this, the Conroe County police set out to find the owner of this tiger. Technically, it is against city ordinances to own a wild animal.

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It took days of searching but it was eventually discovered that the cub was dropped off at a friend’s home to escape the flooding in the town where she was living. Somewhere in transit, the tiger had managed to escape and well … no one really seemed to be all that concerned about it. Finally, after nearly a week, Nala’s “rightful” owner, Cody Tibbits, came forward and claimed the cub … only to days later hand her back over to animal control.

In response to his decision to hand over the cub, Tibbits explained, “I just want the best for her. I want to make sure she’s cared for and not kept as a zoo animal…She’s not a threat.”

While this response might seem like the noble, caring thing to do it is sadly tinged with the stark reality that this is something that so many “well-meaning” people who own exotic animals think. Without any forethought to what it means to actually take an animal from the wild and put it in a captive environment, let alone a home in a suburban neighborhood, people purchase them and put them on display in their backyards. There are currently more tigers in U.S. backyards than the wild. The exotic pet trade is extremely lucrative and it is shockingly easy to acquire a wild animal for private ownership in the U.S. There are certain laws that exist to regulate wildlife ownership – as there are in Conroe County – but this story illustrates just how lax enforcement of these laws can be. The fact that a tiger was in a county that prohibits exotic animal ownership and managed to escape wreaks with flaws.

In this case, there luckily weren’t any incidents due to the cub’s friendly nature, but what can’t be forgotten is that wild animals aren’t like dogs and cats – they might be affectionate and docile one minute, but you can never tell when they might act out or start to exert their wild instinctsSince 1990, there are a reported 742 “incidents” involving exotic cats in the United States, including the death of 23 people, mauling of 253 people, and the death of 146 cats. The bottom line is exotic animal ownership is not only a threat to the public but also a huge risk for the animals too.

It is noble that Tibbit wants the best for this cub and we sincerely hope that she will be taken in by a reputable sanctuary, however, the real best thing for this animals would have been to never have considered her a pet in the first place. After being hand-reared by humans, she can never hope to survive in the wild. This cub deserved to have a life in a natural habitat where she could hunt and bond with her mother and siblings. Being trained to “sit” and “stay” is hardly the sort of existence worthy of this amazing animal.

It is stories like these that serve as pertinent reminders that wild animals belong in one place … the wild. We can all help ensure this by sharing information and articles like this one to raise awareness and refusing to attend any wild animal attraction. Together, we can make a difference – are you ready to start?

Image source: Erin Poole

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