In the last 20 years, there have been a little over 60 deaths due to exotic animals living in homes or unlicensed zoos in the United States. There not many laws forbidding people from owning exotic animals, and it appears as though people have been taking advantage of the lack of restriction.
There is an interesting documentary called, The Elephant in the Living Room, which is available for viewing on Netflix. This documentary really highlights how controversial the topic of owning exotic pets really is. In most cases, yes, these animals become problematic once they grow out of the cute cuddly baby stage. This documentary also features some exotic pet owners, who have cared for and created this amazing bond with nature’s most dangerous animals.
The Elephant in the Living Room features Tim Harrison, a Public Safety Officer for the city of Oakwood, Ohio. Basically, a Public Safety Officer in this city includes being a Police Officer, Fire Fighter, and Paramedic all wrapped into one job title. Ohio is an interesting place because it is 1 of 7 states that has no laws restricting the ownership of wild animals. Here is a statement from Tim Harrison referring to exotic animal problem in his town.
“When I began as a Police Officer in the early 80’s, I would get a python here or there, a tiger, etc. I would average about 5 or 6 a year. But when reality TV started in the 90’s, it was really kind of amazing, it was like someone flipped the switch on. All of a sudden, boom, I got over 100 calls. Some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, and from that point on I knew there was a problem, because I was right in the middle of it.”
The Humane Society of the United States says, there are likely more tigers living in American communities, than there are in the wild. That is very disturbing to me, not because of the danger they pose to humans, but because wild animals should not be kept in captivity, but in their natural environment. It is unnatural to try and change an animal’s instinctual methods, and try to humane them for our entertainment.
In 2001, in the city of Atlanta, there was a drug raid, and Police Officers found 3 exotic animals chained up inside the property; a lion, a tiger, and a bear. It can only be assumed that the drug dealers have a large sum of money, and thought it would be cool to own a lion, tiger and bear. Noah’s Ark Sanctuary is the new home to these 3 animals, who actually share an enclosure. You may have seen YouTube videos about the three unlikely friends. Here is a picture of Leo the lion, Shercon the tiger, and Baloo the black bear.
Since the release of The Elephant in the Living Room, and many other horrific stories of exotic animals being kept as pets, there have been more laws and restrictions against the ownership of wild animals. I think that people need to be more aware about the dangers of owning exotic animals. When you take an animal out of its natural habitat, there will be consequences. When I was a child, all I wanted was a monkey as a pet. My parents would find newspaper clippings of pet monkeys destroying homes, and hurting their owners. In my eyes, my parents were killing my dream of owning a monkey. In reality, my parents were trying to make me think realistically. I can now see that owning a monkey would not be the wisest idea.