When man feels the call of the wild he can do some pretty mind-blowing things—climbing mountains, catching massive waves off the Great Barrier Reef, and living off the land. However, there’s a difference between embracing nature and taking wild animals on as domestic pets. Since the early 1970s, the U.S. has restricted the commercial importing of endangered species for good reason.
Here are a few examples of why the perilous attraction of owning an exotic pet can be a boneheaded, selfish decision…
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries estimates that 5,000 captive tigers are residents of the United States—the large majority live with private owners rather than in accredited zoos. Mountain lions are also popular exotic pets. One former mountain lion owner, Amber Michelle Couch, of Odessa, Texas, found out the wrong way after her 4-year-old nephew was almost mauled to death by her 12-year-old, 150 feline pet after the child got too close to the cage. The boy suffered multiple lacerations and puncture wounds all over his body and face. Miraculously the boy survived, but the lion had to be euthanized.
7. Wolf-Dog Mixes
We often hear about the fatal attraction of the wolf-dog hybrid, the most common wild/domestic animal cross, in the media after it’s far too late. Owners killed, and pets and humans attacked give the unfair stigma of the big, bad wolf in cuddly dog clothing. The USDA estimates somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 wolf dogs being kept as domestic pets in the U.S. The most common hybrid is gray wolves crossed with Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, or Siberian Huskies for the closest wolf-like appearance. Perhaps the most notorious case concerns 50-year-old Sandra Piovesan of Salem, Pittsburgh. In 2005, Piovesan bled to death after being attacked by a pack of 9 wolf-dog hybrids that she raised and played with in backyard enclosures at her residential home.
Not only are monkeys known for throwing their feces at you—the Centers for Disease Control claims they can also transmit several deadly viruses to humans (i.e., herpes B, salmonellosis, and monkey pox). To prove that size really doesn’t matter when it comes to a monkey freak-out, take this tale of JayJay to heart. The 3-foot high, 9-year-old pet Macaque monkey who wore a diaper, dressed up as Santa for the holidays, and played with the children at his Okeechobee, Florida home was shot dead after he turned unexpectedly on his owner, ripping apart his hand, buttocks, and thigh. JayJay’s owner, Jimmy Schwall, suffered over 200 stitches as well as a two-week round of medication to prevent the infections listed above. Schwall and his wife, Mona, had kept JayJay as a pet ever since he was 3-weeks old.
Lions and tigers and bears—oh my! These wild animals might be among your fantasy menagerie of domesticated pets, but most of us realize that as cute and cuddly as they appear at a distance, they deserve to be free. In 2009, a Pennsylvania woman, Kelly Ann Walz, who kept a lion, a tiger and a bear (among other wild animals) as pets paid the ultimate price for her mistake when she entered the 350-pound black bear’s cage for cleaning using a bowl of dog food as distraction. Tragically, Walz was mauled to death by the bear in front of her own children and a group of neighbors despite her high-level of experience and a license to own and handle the animal since 1994. It only goes to show that wild animals belong in the wild not locked in cages.
Not only is it completely illegal to keep an owl as a pet in the United States, few private owners can actually comprehend the level of care of what is involved in caring involved, the nocturnal noise, and the level of destruction an owl can be capable of in a confined residential home. In fact, even most veterinarians don’t have adequate levels of training to adequately and safely care for owls—including regular talon and beak maintenance. The bottom line is that the majestic owl is a predator through and through. Quick, powerful, owls use their beaks and sharp talons to eviscerate and kill prey and attack threats—including human adults and children if threatened. Plus, if the idea of keeping your chest freezer stocked with frozen rats, pocket gophers, mice, and rabbits, plus thawing and dicing dead animals every night for the next 10- years isn’t appetizing, then you’re not cut out for owl ownership.
There is little doubt why they call the majestic lion the “King of the Jungle.” In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that for every lion and tiger in a zoo, there are as many as 10 privately owned. Shirley Minshew, North America’s relief director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW), says that even caring owners are not usually able to meet the cats’ needs. “We wouldn’t think of [putting] a cat normal housecat…in a travel kennel… so why would we do that to an animal [with] this much more power?” Al Abell, from Hardin County, Illinois, found this out the tragic way in 2005 when he was attacked and killed by his pet African lion while changing the bedding in the lion’s pen.
2. Alligators and Crocodiles
Tim Harrison, has seen some pretty crazy things as a Public Safety Officer for the City of Oakwood, California, so trust him when he says that privately-owned alligators are one of the most common animal on human (and dog) attacks he’s dealt with during his career. Obviously the fact that a cute baby gator can extend up to 14-feet in length and kill prey as large as cattle doesn’t deter many humans from owning one. The force of an adult alligator’s bite registers an average of 2000 pounds—not to mention even a nick can cause an infection so severe that it requires limb amputation. That’s if the gator doesn’t break your leg with a whip of their tail.
According to statistics from the Humane Society of the United States, 18 deaths were attributed to exotic reptiles (including pythons, boa constrictors, rattlesnakes, mambas, and iguanas) between 1990 and 2011. Not to mention the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would like to remind us that an estimated 90-percent of all reptiles carry and shed salmonella bacteria in their feces. If that’s not adequate deterrence take an example from a case from New Brunswick, Canada, where 2 brothers, aged 5- and 7-years old were allegedly strangled to death by a 16-foot long African rock python, a type of constrictor, that escaped from an exotic pet store located beneath the apartment where the 2 boys were sleeping.