Exotic Animals Essay
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 made this industry considerably successful. The lack of awareness and ignorance of many people that own exotic animals has been the cause of many incidents or attacks that have occurred.
Recently, Terry Thompson, of Zanesville, Ohio, released his fifty-six exotic animals from their secure cages and then took his own life, enabling the animals to dangerously roam the farmland surrounding the moderately populated community. Most of the exotic animals released were extremely dangerous and posed a threat to the public. That afternoon, law enforcement officials were ordered to shoot and kill eighteen Bengal tigers, seventeen lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, two wolves, and one baboon.
One other primate, a macaque monkey was reported missing, but later the remains were found and had been half eaten by another animal. Zoologist and animal activist were appalled that all the animals had to be exterminated, especially the eighteen Bengal tigers; a species that is currently found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN). Although forty-nine of them had to be killed, only one bear, two monkeys, and three leopards were successfully trapped and transferred to the nearby Columbus Zoo.
Investigation later revealed that Thompson was not a sane person. He had past run-ins with the law concerning the welfare of his animals, and he had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005. Similar incidents have occurred concerning the dangers of exotic animal ownership. Like the couple from Grain Valley, Missouri who were charged with endangering the welfare of a child when their pet ferret chewed off seven of their infant son’s fingers down to the knuckle.
The news has reported many other shocking exotic animal incidents that have occurred this year. In Connecticut, a television animal star chimpanzee bit off both hands and mauled the face and of an elderly woman. In Florida, the death of a two year old girl who was squeezed to death in her crib by a pet python raised many concerns with the government officials that enforce animal ownership laws. These incidents, as well as many others, have shown that protective action must be taken immediately by law makers.
The leniency in laws that prohibit the sale and purchase of exotic animals does not come without consequences. The Exotic Animal Incidents database compiled by the animal protection agency Born Free USA reports that seventy-five human deaths and over fifteen-hundred non-fatal incidents have occurred over the last twenty-one years (Whyte). As a result of the Zanesville incident, Ohio Governor John R. Kasich issued an executive order requesting state agencies to increase inspections and enforce stricter laws relating to animal health, captivity, and cruelty.
The executive order called for The Ohio Department of Health, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and The Ohio Department of Agriculture to cooperate in the detailed investigation and additional inspection of private exotic animal owners and their facilities where wild animals are being bred, raised, and exploited. Ownership of exotic animals is legal in nine states, and in thirty other states, exotic animal ownership is legal if permits are simply applied for through state and local organizations (Kirpalani). These states must revise this easy process that they have developed. The laws should make exotic animal ownership harder.
The process should weed out those individuals that are not competent enough to care for these animals. Our federal government has only one law in place to regulate the treatment of animals. The Animal Welfare Act, signed in 1996, requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, commercially transported, or exhibited to the public (USDA). Exotic animals should never be pets. They are wild animals and should be treated as if they are roaming free in their natural habitat, not at the cost of entertainment and human profits.
It is imperative that state lawmakers and government officials take immediate action to pass strong legislation to protect the world’s exotic animals. Without these laws in place, many more animals will be held captive, mistreated, and set up as a danger to the public. Exotic animals should be in legitimate zoos where they can live in appropriate habitats, receive proper veterinary care, and adequate nutrition. Only professionals in a zoo should have the responsibility of providing the care and attention that these innocent animals deserve.
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