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All domesticated animals were once wild animals. llamas. and could probably be considered to be at least partially domesticated. guinea pigs. They can be aggressive and some larger pets are dangerous simply due to the combination of sheer strength and natural instincts. Wild Animals Often Become Problem Pets Wild animals often become very difficult pets. Many other exotic pet species have been bred in captivity for many years. exercise. Background: Domestic Animals. gerbils. and the animal's wild instincts tend to be retained -. but this distinction depends on your definition of exotic pet. being bred in captivity for even several generations does not make an animal domesticated. Domesticated animals are those that have been bred in captivity for a number of generations. ferrets. carefully consider whether the animal is better off in captivity or in the wild. these wild instincts can be potentially destructive or dangerous. we consider exotic pets to be anything that is not a dog. However. fancy rats and mice. problem behaviors develop since animals in . Here. including (but not limited to) rabbits. but the precise number of generations in captivity needed to qualify as domesticated is not easy to define. so where is the line drawn? There is a tendency to equate exotic pets with non-domestic animals. bird. and Exotic Pets The distinction between wild animals and domesticated animals can be fuzzy at times.and depending on the animal. several species of exotic pets are considered domesticated.CONSIDER TO HAVING WILD ANIMALS AS PETS The Animal Welfare Issue By far the most important ethical issue about keeping wild animals as pets pertains to the welfare of the animal itself. Some of these have been bred in captivity for hundreds of years. and socialization that it would get in the wild? Before deciding on a wild animal as a pet. In captivity. cat. In this context. fish or horse. hamsters. chinchillas. especially once they reach maturity and / or full size. Furthermore. can we provide a wild animal with the proper diet. Wild Animals. and alpacas).

Animals taken from the wild tend to be very stressed to begin with. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all expressed opposition to the possession of certain exotic animals by individuals. non-human primates — belong in their natural habitat and not in the hands of private individuals as “pets. Taking on a wild animal is not a commitment to be taken lightly. Finding a vet to care for your wild animal pet can be difficult.will you be able to find someone to take proper care of your pet (especially if there are behavioral issues involved)? Finding good homes for adult pet wild animals can be very difficult indeed. the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). or from being confined to small spaces. Wild animals raised from a young age may be tame until they reach maturity. reptiles. bears. Certainly 6. then revert to more skittish and sometimes aggressive behavior. and time consuming. The Dangers of Keeping Exotic “Pets” Exotic animals — lions. as such.” By their very nature. and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. housing. diet. Because the majority of states do not keep accurate records of exotic animals entering their state. expensive. The American Veterinary Medical Association.000 to 7. these animals are wild and potentially dangerous and. wolves.captivity can become frustrated at not being able to exhibit natural behavior. You must also consider what you will do if you are no longer able to care for your pet for any reason -. and they may not adapt well to captivity (and are susceptible to illness as a result). They require special care. Exotic animals do not make good companions. do not adjust well to a captive environment. When in the hands of private individuals . it is impossible to determine exactly how many exotic animals are privately held as pets. Providing proper care for a wild animal for its lifespan can be challenging. The number is estimated to be quite high. tigers.000 tigers are held by private individuals.

the majority of these animals are euthanized. They also pose safety and health risks to their possessors and any person coming into contact with them. Consequently. abandoned. If and when the individual realizes he/she can no longer care for an exotic pet. he/she usually turns to zoos and other institutions such as sanctuaries to relieve him/her of the responsibility. and zoos offering large cats. give care advice. or doomed to live in deplorable conditions. Such tactics include confinement in small barren enclosures. breeders. The suffering of the animals in the hands of unqualified and hapless buyers appears to be of no concern in the lucrative exotic pet trade. More than 1000 Internet sites offer to sell. Backyard breeders also supply exotic animals. . physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle.” or even painful mutilations. or of the dangers. ranchers. and provide chat rooms where buyers and sellers can haggle over a price. The sellers of these animals. It is absurdly easy to obtain an exotic pet. a variety of sources provides millions of animals to the exotic pet trade.the animals suffer due to poor care. monkeys. However. such as declawing and tooth removal. make no mention of the state or local laws regulating private possession of exotics. chaining. and other exotic animals for sale. however. The Exotic Animal Pet Trade Every year. which carries ads from dealers. beating “into submission. Helping to facilitate the exotic pet trade is the Animal Finders’ Guide. Others are surplus animals from zoos or their offspring. Animals are captured from their native habitat and transported to various countries to be sold as pets. all the zoos and accredited institutions could not possibly accommodate the number of unwanted exotic animals. Individuals possessing exotic animals often attempt to change the nature of the animal rather than the nature of the care provided. difficulties. private parties.

52 people reported being bitten by macaque monkeys between 1990 to 1997. and asphyxiated by snakes. Several of these incidents have resulted in either serious injury to the persons who came in contact with the animal. At the age of two. leopards.S. bitten by monkeys. pose safety risks to humans as well. and both males and females bite to defend themselves and to establish dominance. even to their medical care providers” for fear that their animal will be confiscated and possibly killed. According to the University of Florida. Many incidents have been reported of escapes.3 million pet reptiles — and have the potential to inflict serious injury through a bite or constriction. an exotic pet typically is isolated and spends the majority of his/her day in a small enclosure unable to roam and express natural behaviors freely.000 venomous snake bites are . or to a stranger on the street. more than 7. and bites from pet reptiles across the country. Reported have been many monkey bites that resulted in serious injury to the individual who possessed the animal. and to the community at large. Even a seemingly friendly and loving animal can attack unsuspecting individuals. tigers. Many large cats have escaped from their cages and terrorized communities. including all types of snakes and lizards. Public Safety Risk Exotic animals are inherently dangerous to the individuals who possess them. These animals are time bombs waiting to explode. According to the CDC. Across the country. Monkeys are the most common non-human primates held by private individuals. exotic animals are dangerous. strangulations. to their neighbors. CDC reported. Children and adults have been mauled by tigers. Although most exotic animals are territorial and require group interactions. Males tend to become aggressive. monkeys begin to exhibit unpredictable behavior. Snakes are the most common “pet” reptiles — about 3% of U. By their very nature. and escaped from their enclosure and freely roamed the community. however. many incidents have been reported where exotic animals held in private hands attacked humans and other animals. and cougars. or both. households possess 7. that “owners of pet macaques are often reluctant to report bite injuries from their pets. Non-domesticated felines. or the death of the animal.1. Reptiles. to a neighbor. are commonly held as pets. These exotic animals are cute and cuddly when they are young but have the potential to kill or seriously injure people and other animals as they grow. such as lions.

and undetected asymptomatic infection. and Salmonellosis. the reason for “such an apparently low rate of transmission may include infrequent B virus shedding by macaques. 15 of which result in death. on August 28. Reported cases of infection in humans are very rare. According to the CDC. Although it is widely acknowledged that non-human primate bites are some of the worst animal bites. 2. Monkeys shed the virus intermittently in saliva or genital secretions. about 2% of infected macaque monkeys are shedding the virus. with the potential to reach the bone and cause permanent deformity. or during breeding season. Wounds may become infected. Persons who possess or work with infected monkeys are presumed to be in constant peril of potentially contracting the virus. . 21 of which were fatal. Monkey Pox.reported annually in the United States (it is uncertain how many of these snakes are pets). Bites from non-human primates can cause severe lacerations. 1999. little research regarding them exists. under stress. scratched. which generally occurs when the monkey is ill. The parents were charged with child endangerment and unlawful possession of a dangerous animal. Many exotic animals are carriers of zoonotic diseases. The frequency of bites remains a mystery. since the identification of the virus in 1932. A person who is bitten. cross-reactive immunity against B virus stimulated by herpes simplex virus infection. there have only been 31 documented human infections by B virus. all of which are communicable to humans. there have been several reported incidences involving strangulation by snakes. such as Herpes B. IL. Herpes B-virus: 80 to 90 percent of all macaque monkeys are infected with Herpes B-virus or Simian B. sneezed or spit on while shedding occurs runs the risk of contracting the disease. a 3-year-old boy was strangled to death by the family’s pet python.” However. making it nearly impossible to know when one is at risk. Moreover. For example. in Centralia. Human Health Risk Exotic animals pose serious health risks to humans. a virus that is harmless to monkeys but often fatal in humans. Monkeys rarely show any signs or symptoms of shedding. the frequency of Herpes B infection in humans has never been adequately studied and thus it is difficult to quantify how many people are actually infected with the virus. At any given time.

if they survive. scratching. in many cases. . and the environment. They often grow to be larger.Monkeys have also been known to transmit the Ebola virus. Such animals typically become too difficult to manage and are confined to small cages. Even small monkeys and small cats such as ocelots can inflict serious injuries. are unknown. especially on children. stronger. This principle applies to both native and nonnative species. Wild animals also pose a danger to human health and safety through disease and parasites. specialized facilities. and other deadly illnesses. passed from owner to owner. appropriate care for wild animals requires considerable expertise. and more dangerous than owners expect or can manage. The instinctive behavior of the adult animal replaces the dependent behavior of the juvenile. Caring for wild animals is difficult or impossible Despite what animal sellers may say. or displaying destructive behaviors without provocation or warning. Some may be released into the wild where. Consider the risks to human health and safety. monkey pox. There are not enough reputable sanctuaries or other facilities to properly care for unwanted wild animals. 2. They can end up back in the exotic pet trade. Baby animals grow up Baby animals can be irresistibly adorable—until the cuddly baby becomes bigger and stronger than the owner ever imagined. 1. they can disrupt the local ecosystem. Their nutritional and social needs are demanding to meet and. The Humane Society of the United States strongly opposes keeping wild animals as pets. The overwhelming majority of people who obtain these animals are unable to provide the care they require. animal welfare. whether caught in the wild or bred in captivity. and lifelong dedication to the animals. or disposed of in other ways. resulting in biting.

their suffering may begin with capture—every year countless birds and reptiles suffer and die on the journey to the pet store. Where wild animals are concerned. meeting this responsibility is usually impossible. Wild animals. Tens of thousands of people get Salmonella infections each year from reptiles or amphibians. herpes B virus. When wild-caught animals are kept as pets. such as rabies. People. by nature. 5. The herpes B virus commonly found among macaque monkeys can be fatal to humans. shelter. These special animal companions depend on humans for food. Captive breeding is no solution. 4. Domestication takes centuries Wild animals are not domesticated simply by being captive born or hand-raised. Animals meant to live in the wild may languish in a cramped backyard cage or circle endlessly in a cat carrier or aquarium. and the environment suffer the consequences. . Capturing wild animals threatens their survival The global wildlife trade threatens the very existence of some species in their native habitats. who have been domesticated by selective breeding for desired traits over thousands of years. It does not take the wild out of wildlife. A 2003 outbreak of monkeypox was set in motion when African rodents carrying the disease were imported for the pet trade and infected native prairie dogs. causing the CDC to recommend that these animals be kept out of homes with children under five. The instinctive behavior of these animals makes them unsuitable as pets. who were also sold as pets. they become sick or die because their owners are unable to care for them properly. Often. Having any animal as a pet means being responsible for providing appropriate and humane care. and Salmonella. It's a different story with dogs and cats. are self-sufficient and fare best without our interference. veterinary care. Wild animals spread disease The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages direct contact with wild animals for a simple reason: They can carry diseases that are dangerous to people. animals. and affection.3.

S. There may be local laws (at your city or county level). Examples include red eared sliders in many locations. or laws at the state/provincial or federal levels that restrict the types of pet you may keep. ignorance of the law will not protect you or your pet if you are turned in or discovered. Authorities estimate that the black market in wildlife is valued in the billions of dollars.A. second only to illegal drug trafficking. but the demand for increasingly rare exotic pets does contribute to the problem. 2007) for more on this topic.  Invasive Species: the importation and movement of non-native species for the pet trade has led to several cases of pet species becoming invasive species and disrupting local ecossytems when the pets escape or are released. July 26. the mild Monkeypox outbreak in the U. which was thought ot have originated via an imported Gambian rat from Africa). Get official confirmation. the first thing to do is check the laws where you live. in 2003. being kept in confined spaces and the inability to exhibit natural behavior can be very stressful.Potential Problems With Keeping Wild Animals as Pets :  Stress for the Animal: the stress of capture and transport and improper care in captivity can cause illness or death.  Illegal Smuggling of Animals: there is a healthy black market for wild animals and related products which appears to be a growing problem. Legal Issues If you are considering a wild animal as a pet. Even for captive bred animals. Don't rely on information from the internet.  Exotic Diseases: wild animals can carry diseases transmissable to humans (e..  Declining Populations: capture of animals for the pet trade can contribute to declining wild populations of some species. and iguanas and burmese pythons in Florida. The black market in wildlife fuelled by mush more than the pet industry.g. Authorities Say (National Geographic News. . Especially in the case where animals are caught and transported illegally it is estimated that many animals die for each one that eventually becomes someone's pet. See Wildlife Smuggling Boom Plaguing L. and don't assume just because you can find an animal for sale locally that it is legal where you are. and your pet will likely be confiscated.

city or county does not prohibit private possession. . If your state. Find out how your state. Share this fact sheet with friends and family. contact your state senator and representative or your city and county council members and urge them to introduce legislation banning possession of exotic animals.  Educate others. living in deplorable conditions. etc. please do not buy exotic animals as “pets. Write a Letter to the Editor.”  If you observe an exotic animal being abused. city and county regulates private possession of exotic animals.WHAT TO DO ! You can do several things to help stop private possession of exotic animals:  For the animals’ sake and for your health and safety.. For more information. report it to the appropriate animal control agency.   Support legislation at all levels to prohibit private possession of exotic animals. see our website.

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