There is a reason why zoos and farms exist. Families and school children go to their local zoos to look at exotic animals from all over the world. It is fun to make goofy faces at the monkeys, stare at the tigers rough house with one another, and watch the sharks during feeding time at the aquarium. However, all of this activity is done behind the safety of large walls, fences, and glass.
Unfortunately, such experiences are not enough for some people, and they feel that owning exotic animals in their private homes as “pets” should be available regardless of danger to others or the eco-system.
It was particularly heart-rending to find out about two-year old Florida girl Shaiunna Hare who was strangled by an 8-foot long albino Burmese python that slithered into the child’s crib early Wednesday morning. The python’s owner, her mother’s boyfriend, stabbed the reptile, but it was too late to save the little girl’s life. The python was a “family pet” that broke free from its glass aquarium and made its way to the child’s bedroom. The audio of the 911 call is below.
Monkeys are the most common exotic animals that are privately held says the Captive Wild Animal Protective Coalition(CWAPC), but the non-human primates can become particularly unpredictable after the age of two and cause some serious if not fatal injury to others. Travis the chimpanzee mauled a Connecticut woman back in February of this year, and nearly tore her face off. CNN has the 911 call below.
In 2006 a New York City man unsuccessfully tried suing the city for unlawfully entering his Harlem apartment, after he was mauled by his so-called pet siberian tiger. The man was not just keeping a tiger as a pet but a six-foot-long alligator in his fifth floor apartment as well.
It is not just the endangerment of human beings or even the well being of the animal itself, but when individuals bring species indigenous to one ecosystem to another ecosystem, where there are no predators of that species, problems will occur. Hawaii found this out when the coqui frog, indigenous to the island of Puerto Rico, was introduced to America’s tropical 50th state. The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources says:
“One species that has garnered much attention recently is the coqui frog, Eleutherdactylus coqui. Its ability to quickly adapt to Hawai’i from its native Puerto Rico and reach unprecedented numbers, the absence of predators, and its noisy mating behavior have made the coqui frog the target of government and community eradication and control efforts.”
Disease is another issue to contend with when exotic animals and unknown species are brought into the country. For example The Center for Disease Control says:
Of primary concern when evaluating macaque bites are bacterial and B-virus infections. B-virus infection is highly prevalent (80% to 90%) in adult macaques and may cause a potentially fatal meningoencephalitis in humans. We examined seven nonoccupational exposure incidents involving 24 persons and eight macaques. Six macaques were tested for herpes B; four (67%) were seropositive. A common observation was that children were more than three times as likely to be bitten than adults. The virus must be assumed to be a potential health hazard in macaque bite wounds; this risk makes macaques unsuitable as pets.
With so many unwanted dogs and cats being euthanized every day at shelters, it is unfortunate people feel it necessary to either purchase or smuggle in exotic animals clearly not meant to be cared for by a private homeowner, who does not have the facilities nor the knowledge to care for such creatures. These individuals are doing the animals and those around them no favors.