15 November 2011
Exotic Animals Are More than Just Pets
The exotic animal trade is a growing industry in which exotic animals are bred, sold, and traded in massive amounts. Millions of exotic animals are being kept in private residences, small roadside zoos, and traveling wild animal exhibits. Sadly, beautiful and majestic animals are being held captive in unfortunate living conditions. They are being deprived the enrichment and companionship that they require to develop and flourish effectively as if they were living in the wild. These mistreated animals can be extremely dangerous to human health, the safety of the public, and the animals themselves. Many exotic animal attacks have been front page news; most recently, the release and killing of forty-nine exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio, was said to be the worst exotic animal incident in United States history. This dangerous incident and those like it need to be thoroughly investigated, and legislation must be improved to avoid future incidents. Stricter laws will ensure exotic animals are being cared for humanely and the public is protected. Common exotic animals that are being purchased for private ownership or entertainment purposes are large game cats, bears, wolves, zebras, reptiles, birds, and nonhuman primates. The genetic anomalies of zedonks, crossbreeding zebras with donkeys, are even being advertised for sale (Green). All of these exotic animals may seem cute and cuddly in zoos and other exhibits, but they are extremely dangerous if not cared for appropriately. The care of exotic animals can be expensive, and many people will purchase these animals unaware of the costs that are required to maintain the animal’s health and environment. Many investigations into exotic animal attacks have revealed that these animals are not being cared for in humane ways. They were not being fed adequately and have not received appropriate medical care. The conditions these animals are forced to live in can make them violent towards owners or handlers. They become violent because they are hungry or because of health problems they have developed due to their ill-treatment. Exotic animals can carry diseases that can be dangerous to humans and, in some cases, even fatal. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that seventy thousand people in the United States contract the bacterial disease salmonella from the handling of reptiles, such as snakes or iguanas (Kirpalani). Humans have died from being exposed to diseases like the Monkey B virus carried by nonhuman primates as well as rabies found in many different species of animals. Additionally, humans can pose a threat to the exotic animals when they come into contact with them. Diseases that humans carry, like the herpes simplex virus, if contracted, can be fatal to certain small primates (Parsell).
Many people question why there are a great number of exotic animals for sale in the United States. The answer is simple: exotic animal trade has been significantly profitable for those parties involved. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that the illegal trafficking of exotic animals is a twenty-billion dollar industry (Eaton). Even though many states have laws that prohibit the sale and purchase of exotic animals, they continue to be illegally purchased through easy access websites, exotic animal brokers, exotic animal breeders, and exotic animal auctions held at livestock yards. There were even reports of one Texas woman selling tiger cubs from the back of her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I recently visited the website ExoticAnimalsForSale.net and discovered over six-hundred advertisements for exotic animals that were being sold. The animals ranged from large game cats to exotic birds and dangerous reptiles. Interested buyers can simply purchase these animals with one click of the mouse. The ease of illegally purchasing exotic animals has...