What is it Like to Own an Exotic Pet?

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Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service.

It may sound like fun to have a wolf as a pet, but they aren’t just big dogs.

DeShawn Smith, Staff Reporter

Have you ever thought about owning a pet?  Many students have owned a cat, dog, fish, or hamster, or even a snake or spider.  But how about a wolf, camel, or monkey?

In some states you can own an exotic animal, an animal that is not usually considered a pet, without a license or a permit, but many states have a ban on owning exotic animals.

Alabama, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin are the states where  the owner doesn’t need a special license or permit to possess an animal within the state, but may require an entry permit or veterinary certificate to show some proof of animal handling when it is first brought into the state (and the country, in some cases). Yes, this does lead occasionally to people smuggling animals, but that is a different story.

Washington, Vermont, Utah, Oregon, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Kentucky, Iowa, Illinois, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, California, and Alaska are all the states where owning exotic animals is basically banned.

Even with bans across the nation people could still buy animals while having a license and or permit so they have legal authority to own an exotic animal. This is primarily to keep people safe. One incident that ended poorly was in Columbia Station, Ohio in 2010 where a caretaker was mauled by a pet bear.  From 1990 to 2011, there have been 75 reported deaths due to exotic animals. Incidents involving exotic animals from 1990 to 2011 was 1,610. According to the graph on LiveScience, as the years go on the rise in exotic animal incidents increase.

According to National Geographic, owning a wild exotic animal can lead to very unwanted outcomes for both parties, even if the animal doesn’t harm you, you may end up killing it through poor care.

Some argue that keeping endangered animals raises their chances of survival as a species. For instance, there were 3,200 tigers in the wild in 2011 and 5,000 to 7,000 tigers were owned as pets. Yes, the number of “pet” tigers is almost double the number of tigers that lived in the wild.

Even though any wild animal can be dangerous, the list of dangerous animals kept as pets is listed in four categories, according to HumaneSociety. The four categories are big cats, primates, bears, and snakes. Exotic animals need their terrain and need their natural eating habits. Keeping animals in extreme confinement and neglect leads to animals growing unstable  and leads to an animal attack or even lead to the murder of innocent people.  Tigers, for example, need acres of land to roam to stay physically fit, and really prefer to kill live game.  Adult Bengal tigers can top 500 pounds, and their jaws are designed for tearing throats out of something just your size…and don’t assume your local vet has any interest or experience in keeping them healthy.

Even though some exotic animals are dangerous (and some are just not suitable for keeping in someone’s yard or house) there is a large market of substitutes for them. For example they have wolf dog hybrids that are legal to buy and you can get pets like hedgehogs, ferrets, and lizards.