Think it's rare to keep exotic animals as pets? Born Free USA estimates that there are 6,000 to 7,000 tigers living with private individuals—and that’s just the beginning. Could someone in your neighborhood be keeping exotic animals as pets?
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Wild Night in the City
Petside.com recently reported that a Manhattan apartment buyer was looking for a duplex so he could live on one floor and house his pet kangaroo on the other. Another city dweller was found sharing his co-op with a pack of wolves. They were discovered one night when neighbors heard them howling at a full moon shining down on Fifth Avenue.
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In October 2011, Terry Thompson committed suicide after releasing dozens of exotic animals that he’d kept as pets on his farm in Zanesville, Ohio. Sheriff deputies ultimately killed 49 of them, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon.
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ASPCA Advice on dangers of exotic animals as pets
The organization is against people keeping exotic animals as pets for a number of reasons. They state that the animals’ needs cannot be properly met when they’re living in captivity; they can infect humans with all sorts of diseases including hepatitis A, rabies, ringworm, tuberculosis, measles, and monkey pox; plus, to meet the demands of buyers, dealers often capture and remove the animals from their natural habitats.
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Owners Are Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore
In what may be the first action of its kind, a group of exotic animal owners filed a federal lawsuit on November 2 asking that a preliminary injunction be granted to stop a new law that requires those who keep exotic animals as pets register their animals with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. They claim their constitutional rights are being violated and they’re using a First Amendment argument to make their case.
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A Middle Ground for having exotic animals as pets?
In an October 2011 opinion piece for The New York Times, Peter Laufer, a professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, pointed out that the laws on keeping exotic animals as pets differ throughout the country and are a confusing patchwork. He wrote that, “We ought to be able to agree on a list of animals that historically do not cohabitate with humans and pose such a threat that they must be caged. Then it’s an easy step to come up with federal laws to protect the animals and their neighbors. It’s past time to regulate the wild beasts: us.”
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com