Recently, in the Florida Everglades, a 13-foot Burmese python and an alligator got into a life and death struggle with each other. At the end, both animals were dead. Everglades and the entire state of Florida, estuaries, and wildlife habitats anywhere are teeming with wild animals that had been pets in homes but were unwanted later. Park rangers and animal trappers are seeing more and more of wild animals that do not belong in their state’s natural environment.
About six months ago, my husband and I spotted a small iguana on the front lawn of a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. When we alerted the hotel clerk, he told us there were loose iguanas all over the place, because people from the northern states brought their unwanted exotic pets and dumped them here since they thought the pet would survive on its own in a subtropical climate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Animals belong to several different habitats, even when the weather conditions are similar.
Wild animal babies are attractive and lovable. We all adore an irresistibly cute and cuddly ocelot, bobcat, monkey, or a bear while a baby, but these babies grow up in no time and, if they are kept as pets, they become a nuisance and danger to themselves and to their surroundings.
Another point to consider is that care of wild animals eventually becomes very difficult, or better said, impossible. Their appropriate care demands expertise of the species, tailor-made facilities, and indefatigable dedication lifelong. When the babies become older and are impossible to handle, they are usually put away or passed from owner to owner. Worse yet, wild animals that are declawed or changed in some way to fit into a home are not accepted into the zoos. So, at times, they are let loose in an environment where their survival is, at best, iffy.
What is more, these animals are social creatures and they need and deserve the company of their own kind. Even when their physical health is taken care of, they grow up with behavior problems and act unpredictably because they are out of their natural environment.
Wild animals also may come with unknown viruses and make other pets and people in a household ill. For example, lizards are famous for carrying the salmonella virus as some primates are for Herpes B. Other animals may bring rabies or still unknown and undetected diseases, and if we can take these animals back to their initial environment, it is probable that they will transport diseases from domestic cats and dogs to the wild.
Nobody benefits from keeping wild animals as pets, except for their breeders and sellers who exploit wildlife for huge financial gains. These people take animal babies away from their mothers at too young an age and transport them under deplorable conditions to the markets to be sold as pets.
During the transportation, many of the babies die in outrageous numbers; 90% of the reptiles and 95% of the birds are dead, long before reaching their prospective owners. In addition, as the result of the wild animal trade, natural habitats are disturbed and quite a few species become extinct, as in the case of several West Indies species of Macaws.
Owning a wild animal is not a status symbol. The actress or singer with a python, boa, or an anaconda wrapped around her (or his) body is neither being adventurous nor sexy. Moreover, she is advertising to the entire world that her artistic talent amounts to zero and she can be sure that people who feel like I do will boycott her work as long as she stays in the public eye.
Sometimes wild animal merchants crossbreed wild and domestic species. This too is an appalling practice because it makes the animals inapt to survive both in the wild and in a household with other pets and young children.
Also, the rainforests of Central and South America are diminishing in size daily. In Florida, migrating birds are running out of places to stop and rest. If the wild animal pet owner really cared about animals, instead of imprisoning his pet under intolerable conditions, he would work toward keeping natural habitats, estuaries, jungles, and desert environments intact.
Several states ban the sale and keeping of wild animals as pets. Still, this ban is not enforced or the wild animal owners manage to fall through the cracks. Pet shops are not inspected daily, and if they are inspected, the inspectors may not be well versed in wild animals to detect or separate the wild species from the tame ones. Even if some of those animals may be orphaned or injured and then found by a person and brought to the pet shop, they still belong in the wild.
The sale of wild animals does not involve the pet stores only. It has taken hold of a sizable piece of the internet. This is scary, since internet has little control over itself.
These facts point to one important certainty: if we truly care for animals, we have to control our behavior. If we really want a pet that will be a positive addition to our homes, our local animal shelter is waiting for us to adopt a kitten, a puppy, or any tame pet, and if we find an orphaned or injured wild animal, our state’s wildlife officials or a professional wildlife expert are there to help the animal.
We are a nation of animal lovers. Most of us strongly feel that animal welfare is our responsibility. I can understand the wild pet owner’s feelings in wanting to get close to an animal, but we have to respect the way nature works. So, please, let’s not encourage the wild animal trade.
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