Exotic Pets Gone Wild


Reacting to the bizarre tragedy of this heavily-reported story out of Ohio, Jennifer LaFleur explores the legal issues surrounding the private ownership of exotic animals:  

State laws regulating ownership of exotic species vary widely. Arkansas, for example, bans the ownership of “large carnivores” but grandfathered in people who already owned such creatures so they could keep them. In Delaware, owners of “non-native wild animals” must obtain a permit. The law excludes venomous snakes. Some states require owners of exotics to register them, but that doesn’t always happen. According to a 2004 Dallas Morning News report, more than two years after Texas required registration of exotic animals, only 89 were on the state’s list. Yet Texas has an estimated 3,500 tigers alone – more than live in India.

Susan Orlean makes the case for prohibition:

Wild animals don’t want to be owned. They’re wild. They are not pets; they are not our friends; they are not objects. No scenario makes private ownership of wild animals reasonable or fair. … There will always be vain, obsessive people who want to own rare and extraordinary things whatever the cost; there will always be people for whom owning beautiful, dangerous animals brings a sense of power and magic. It must be like having a comet in your backyard, a piece of the universe that is dazzling and untouchable right outside your door. But animals live and die and breed and feel pain and can inflict pain. There is no excuse for any individual to own them, period. 

(Photo: A sign warns passing motorists about exotic animals on the loose from a wildlife preserve October 19, 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio. Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson was found dead Tuesday evening after deputies received calls reporting wild animals on the loose west of Zanesville. The preserve kept exotic animals such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, bears, giraffes and camels. By Jay LaPrete/Getty Images.)