Private citizens who own exotic animals—lions, chimpanzees, bears, boa constrictors, etc.—often find the novelty quickly wears off. They either dump the animal in the wild where he or she most likely will perish, turn the animal over to another private collector, give the animal to a sanctuary, or have the animal euthanized.
However, some owners create a lifetime of misery for their acquired exotics, and some of these animals wind up on the front pages of newspapers and on the 6 o’clock news. Travis was shot after mauling a friend of his owner. A bear who mauled an employee of a backyard menagerie was euthanized. And just recently, in Zanesville, Ohio, of the 56 animals who were released by their owner, approximately 49 were shot to death. While some people may blame the police for the deaths of these animals, make no mistake, the blame for the death of these and any other wild animal held in private captivity rests on the shoulders of people who bring them into their homes and on the legislators of jurisdictions where such ownership is allowed.
According to a news report, “…Ohio is one of only eight states that do not regulate exotic animals. It did briefly after a bear mauling, but Gov. John Kasich allowed the ban to expire.” The other states are Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Twenty-one states have a ban on private ownership of exotic animals; 8 states have a partial ban; 13 states require the owner of an exotic animal to obtain a license or permit. By allowing ownership of wild animals with no regulation of those animals, Ohio created a climate where the events of recent days were almost inevitable.
Exotic animals can be purchased for less than the cost of a purebred dog and enter the pet trade by being stolen from their native habitat, acquired from zoos or menageries that no longer want them, bought at auctions or in pet stores, raised by “backyard” breeders, and purchased through Internet sites. Rarely are these animals housed in anything resembling their natural habitat. They are kept caged for years if not their entire lives or until some horrendous event occurs. A quick visit to Animal Planet’s Fatal Attractions series offers viewers many chilling stories of privately owned wild animals killing or injuring their owners and other humans. In addition, wild animals carry zoonotic diseases (meaning the disease can be transmitted from the animal to humans), such as herpes B, monkeypox, rabies, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis. Some of these diseases can be fatal to humans.
Private ownership of exotic animals should be outlawed nationwide. Those who own exotics should prepare plans for turning them over to appropriate sanctuaries where they can be cared for in a manner appropriate to their species. Because when you think about it…the 49 animals in Ohio and all the other exotic animals who have given their lives as a result of being forced into the exotic pet trade should not have been made to suffer for nothing.