By Corrine Henn
When most people think of animals designated as pets, dogs and cats come to mind, but for some, others, exotic animals also fall into this category. Although you might think that obtaining an animal like a tiger or lion would be a difficult task, it is shockingly easy to do in the U.S. In fact, there are currently more tigers in American backyards than the wild.
It’s apparent to most that the exotic pet epidemic is a growing problem for wild animals of all sizes. We’ve seen just how devastating the results can be when these animals are kept in captivity. No matter how large the enclosure, nothing can compare to the wild — not to mention the fact that exotic pet owners aren’t even required to have a special certification or knowledge that would qualify them to care for a wild animal.
While the exotic pet trade continues to flourish (a billion dollar trade in the United States alone), we’ve seen an increase in the number of exotic pets being abandoned and released. To combat this influx of abandoned exotic pets, certain states have even enacted exotic pet “amnesty” programs that allows residents to surrender their pets. Since Exotic Pet Amnesty Day was enstated in Florida, more than 2,000 exotic pets have been surrendered.
With so many wild animals not native to the U.S. living amongst us, you have to wonder, where are they coming from?
Exotic Pet Auctions in The United States
Thousands of wild animals are being transported and sold as pets at auctions all across the United States. A simple Google search will return dozens of results for auctions in Texas, Ohio, Missouri and Indiana, just to name a few.
Where do the Animals Come From?
The variety of exotic animals available at auctions ranges from gazelles, giraffes and zebras to big cats and primates for sale. Depending on the species, some animals are bred in captivity, others are captured from the wild, and many are smuggled into the states. Regardless of where the animals began, they all have ties to the illegal wildlife trade. More often than not, the animals sold at the auctions are brought in by dealers, and the owner of the auction simply takes a commission on each animal sold.
License or Permits Required
According to Born Free, only ten states have regulations in place for these exotic animal auctions, regardless of the state regulations on exotic pet ownership. It is the responsibility of the buyer to find out what permits, if any, are needed or what regulations are in place for that particular species. In certain states, there are regulations that limit the types of animals you can own, but seven states in the U.S. don’t require any license or permit.
Regulating the exotic pet trade has proven difficult, and even more difficult to regulate who obtains these wild animals at auctions. In 2011, there were only 105 U.S. department of Agriculture inspectors to monitor nearly 8,000 facilities.
Are We Entitled To Keep Wild Animals as Pets?
Exotic pet owners believe they should be able to own whatever animal they want for a number of reasons, but no matter what, you can’t get around the fact that exotic animals can’t be domesticated, many of them are endangered in the wild, and the larger exotic pets are public safety hazards.
Although one could easily debate that the wild is quickly being lost for many species, that doesn’t mean we should simply cease to raise awareness for the conservation of such crucial habitat, or that we should give up on protecting the remaining animals in the wild.
What Can You Do?
- If you know of anyone looking to purchase an exotic pet, urge them not to.
- If you know or suspect anyone of illegally housing an exotic pet, report it to your local authorities.
- Support all legislation in your area to ban the private ownership of exotic animals.