Sunday, September 5, 2010

Some American States are Easy in the Exotic Pet Ownership

Capuchin monkeys are often victims as exotic pets

Recently, a black bear had fatally mauled and killed its caretaker in a Cleveland suburb. This became a latest example of animal violence in Ohio, which has some of the weakest laws in restrictions in owning wild exotic pets and even having the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them. State officials are now setting up strong restrictions on ownership of dangerous animals after a standoff between the Humane Society and agriculture interests. According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, the issue is a free-for-all in Ohio and is a disaster waiting to happen. In addition to Ohio, there have been other similar incidents across the nation. One example was seen in Connecticut in 2009 when a woman was fatally blinded by her friend's pet chimpanzee. Another was in Florida when a family suffered a terrible loss when their two-year-old daughter was squeezed to death by their pet python. Both of these states have voted to ban the ownership of dangerous animals. But elsewhere, other states also impose few or no restrictions in owning non-native animals. These include Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, and Montana. Many owners of such animals believe that they are keeping the animals safe from the dangers of habitat loss and illegal poaching. They see themselves as conservationists, but instead, they are exposing the animals in an inhumane environment. One database highlighting the numbers of escapes and attacks by exotic pets collected by an an animal rights group Born Free USA since 1990 showed that Florida ranked first place with 43 incidents. It was then followed by Texas with 19 cases, New York with 18, California with 16, and Ohio and Alabama with 14 cases.

I'm glad to see that Ohio has put its foot down and take action against the ownership of exotic pets after its latest incident. However, four other states do not impose such restrictions the way Ohio is doing. I can only hope that they will follow Ohio's example, and one day the chances of any attacks by dangerous exotic animals in those four states will eventually cease. Owning an exotic wild creature as a pet is not as same as owning a domestic animal of any type. According to Adam Roberts, chief executive vice president of Born Free USA, it is inhumane to keep large wild animals in captivity. He even stated that exotic pet ownership results in several problems such as the risk of infectious disease, damage to the native environment from escapees, and financial burden on rescue groups that operate sanctuaries for abandoned sanctuaries. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums provides an in-depth information at the lethal diseases carried by wild animals. These include distemper and rabies in carnivores, herpes in primates, and salmonella in reptiles. It even notes that vaccines used on domestic animals do not work on wild animals. In my opinion, this seems like enough proof to persuade a state infamous for providing citizens a free right in owning exotic pets to take assertive action against the ownership.

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