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Some Exotic Pet Headlines

Updated on May 26, 2014
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

Pet Ownership Under Siege, What Else is New?

The fact is, the so-called ‘exotic pet community’ is very small. This is a positive thing; these animals are not to be causally owned by every person that simply admires their looks or desires them as a status symbol.

Too many cats, dogs, and common pet store animals are victims of such people as a small fraction of these people are truly invested in the animal’s long-term psychological well being. Just a few years ago I had the displeasure of visiting a store that seemed to specialize in selling live puppies as commodities.

In its mall location, it only sold expensive toy breeds as well as made up breeds such as ‘peekapoos’, along with accessories consisting of teeny dresses and purses to carry their animal in.

These 'breeds'/runts are actually glorified growth stunted puppies labeled the BS name ‘tea cup’; but I digress. The pet trade can unfortunately have some ugly faces. But there are many great dog owners, even if they enjoy dressing them up every now and then. I’m not going to frown upon them because of the stupidity of other people. Why can’t owners of “exotic” pets be viewed similarly? Not all exotic animals are the same and neither are their owners.

Despite conventional belief, non-domesticated animals do not adhere to some philosophic description that they cannot have sufficient well-being in captivity with a human.

Here are some recent (as of early 2012) news-worthy stories of exotic pet conflicts, along with my hopefully very rational take on them.

A red kangaroo
A red kangaroo

Christie Carr and her Disabled Kangaroo

Kangaroos certainly can be dangerous. Their powerful hind legs can be used to disembowel their natural predators. But what if one can hardly hop for 3 seconds without assistance?

Not a stranger to dressing her very exotic companion in human attire (supposedly for the animal’s comfort and to protect him from germs), Oklahoma resident Christie Carr has long been battling her town of Broken Arrow’s exotic animal policy that at first, wouldn’t permit her to keep her kangaroo that she's claimed has helped her with her depression.

Irwin the kangaroo was permanently disabled after an accident at the facility where he was living. After much public backlash in Carr’s defense and televised publicity, the town actually made an exception for Carr to keep the animal as long as she complied with some regulations and paid a $50,000 liability insurance policy (she couldn’t afford it, but it was paid last year by an anonymous donor). Carr is now relocating due to some disagreement with the authorities on some missed paperwork.

Let me just say this, I’ve ‘spoken’ with Carr on a Facebook group, or more so, she’s told me off several times in response to my opinions on Guzoo Animal Farm declaring, to put it rather lightly, that my opinions were not welcome and that I should be blocked from said group. Oddly enough,she also accused me of supporting the efforts of those that want to take her pet. Strange isn’t it?

Of course I think she should be able to keep her animal, if not only because she can provide the intensive care such a disabled animal needs, but more because the animal clearly poses zero threat to anyone else, which is the basis of why the exotic animal bans exist in that town in the first place. This situation illustrates the biggest issue I have with exotic animal bans; that each situation isn't assessed with a reasonable objective eye. Not all exotic animals pose the same level of danger to the general public, yet they are all lumped into the same category and no exceptions are typically made for animals that obviously aren’t a threat, or for people who have enough experience and intelligence to deal with one.

A baby pot-bellied pig
A baby pot-bellied pig | Source

A Pot-bellied Pig in the Suburbs

Do people still believe that the term 'exotic' will never apply to their domesticated pets? Although they may sound like something that belongs on a farm (and are often subject to the regulations of commercial swine), pot-bellied pigs are fully domesticated animals that can make decent house pets for some people.

Dog-like in their demeanor and intelligence, you would think these 'alternative' pets would hardly be a threat to anyone. Yet in Belmont, MA, a concerned citizen outed the menacing new resident. Now, the town of Belmont's Board of Health will hold a meeting discussing regulations for the atypical pet ownership. Fortunately, no bans are being proposed, just regulations in the form of required permits, which I mostly support. However, permit requirements need not exist solely on the grounds that an animal is 'unusual'.

"Belmont has had its share of unusual pets, said Alper: a horse lived for years in Waverly Square; llamas once lived on Belmont Hill; and one Belmont man used to take walks with an albino boa constrictor draped across his shoulders."

Did I read that correctly? Now horses are 'unusual'? Perhaps in a city, but if a person has the proper space, I don't see how that's so strange. I see them toting carts in New York City all the time and I must say, personal pets probably have it better. And oh my, an albino boa constrictor...it doesn't even have a common phenotype!

Unlike Burmese and reticulated pythons, these relatively sizable snakes do not have a kill rate with people, so I don't know why any special interest would be directed toward them. Less people keep them than dogs...so what?

I'm bored with the Board of Health. Appropriate regulations are always called for, just not based on the baseless concerns of the majority. Indeed there are some disease concerns, yet most of them are applicable to dogs and cats as well.

I don't see why a pot-bellied pig owner would need a special permit, but these owners were lucky their animal of choice wasn't one a tad more "weird" or they may have found themselves petless. So good for them.

Side view of Canada goose
Side view of Canada goose | Source

A Goose's Good Fortune Comes to an End

Years ago when I was growing up, the family friendly film Fly Away Home tugged at people's heartstrings and garnered critical acclaim. It's too bad that Dianne VanderWeil didn't don an ultralight aircraft to seek sanctuary for her adopted goose.

While the geese in the film had harsh winters as their main threat, "Lucy" the goose, adopted by VanderWeil in Canada after she found the animal on the side of the road, lived in comfort until 'conservation officers' found out about her, confiscated her from her distraught owner, and presumably euthanized her.

Turns out her owner was violating the The federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, which exists to "protect migratory birds, their eggs and nests. The Act regulates hunting, prevents trafficking and commercialization, and controls the uses of migratory birds through permits". Keeping the goose was prohibited without a permit, which regular people can't get.

According to the owner, the goose was very happy with her life and did not want to return to the wild. This doesn't surprise me, as accurately depicted by the aforementioned film, geese tend to be the types of animals that are conditioned to imprint on the parent that raised them. The "protective" law had the bird ripped from the situation she adapted to and had her spend her last moments in a frightened state at a "sanctuary" before her baseless execution.

Permits that we can't get are also available in the US for outlawed animals. One way to get one is to be an 'exhibitor', aka, a person who is using the animals for financial reasons. I'm not sure why people can't be reasonable and issue permits to people who deserve them. I'm not sure how this situation is endangering wild migratory birds. The fact of the matter is, these officials don't feel that they owe the people any answers.

A Pet Expo Boycott

And finally, once again in Canada, exotic pets are arousing disdain, and this time from the Vancouver Humane Society. Please note, this organization from what I can see isn't affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The HSUS certainly shares these views but isn't so bold as to push it out into the mainstream in this manner. They still need people who own reptiles to fund their lobbying efforts, and such people wouldn't be too happy if they found out the organization they were sending donations sought to ban their animals. So they usually stick to airing footage of puppy-eyed dogs in animal shelters, of which they contribute little funds to help. At least the VHS (yes, I got 90's nostalgia from that too) is more honest.

In response to the inclusion of reptiles at a 'pet expo' at the Pacific National Exhibition by Cinemazoo, the organization is calling for a boycott of the animals that they have deemed as unsuitable to keep.

“We already have huge problems with domestic animals like cats and dogs, and that’s after 10,000 years of domestication, decades of work by animal groups and SPCAs trying to educate people on dog and cat care, immense resources from libraries and veterinary networks that can give all the information on the care of cats and dogs, and yet we still have people who neglect their dogs and cats”

...says Peter Fricker with the Vancouver Humane Society. I would love Fricker to name an animal that has never been abused or mistreated by humans. Humans have been mistreated by humans. So basically, it is wrong and immoral to exist and have any pet to exist with you, because a pet somewhere else is being abused by a moron.

He's right about one thing though, 'even' dogs and cats, the animals people insist I should get instead of an exotic because they are not 'meant to be in the wild', can be victims of mistreatment and improper care standards. It is obvious to me that: having a pet is not wrong, mistreating it is. Don't get a pet you can't care for or do not possess the suitable environment that the animal needs. Gee, isn't that the point of having these informative expos?

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    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 

      6 years ago from Washington state

      Brilliant. It is heart breaking to read stories like the Canada goose one. I will never understand why there is such hatred for unusual pets. I think we are losing something important, perhaps understanding, acceptance, or childlike curiosity, by creating such a vast rift between "appropriate" and "inappropriate" animals as companions.

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