Exotic Pets: Bad for Animals, Bad for Humans

The Boston Globe is reporting on lax exotic pet laws, specifically those in Ohio and several other states.

Attacks of humans by pets in recent years have stirred up a debate about the merit of keeping exotic animals as personal companions.

In Ohio last month a caretaker was killed while feeding a bear that belonged to one Sam Mazzola. Mazzola kept a menagerie that included bears, wolves and tigers. After the caretaker was mauled, the bear was killed as well.

Not long ago a woman in Connecticut was blinded after being attacked by a friend’s pet chimpanzee. And in Florida, a 2-year-old girl was killed by her family’s python.

Because it is always an injury of a human by an animal that ignites the debate about the keeping of exotic pets, the debate usually centers around the safety of the humans involved. And while it is extremely dangerous for individuals to keep wild animals, it is the animals who really suffer.

We cannot fault a captive animal that attacks a human caretaker. These animals are not domesticated; they’re wild. They are confined and under psychological stress and you cannot hold them accountable for acting on instinct. It’s in their nature.

People who keep exotic animals as pets, or in private menageries, are running small-scale zoos. True, they may not be exhibiting animals for the public’s amusement, but they are still confining animals for their own amusement. This kind of confinement exerts anxiety and tension on an animal that we cannot understand.

In Ohio specifically, exotic pet laws are being dragged into what is already a complicated animal welfare compromise being given lip service by both sides of the issue, if through gritted teeth. The Humane Society agreed to withdraw efforts to get animal welfare legislation on the ballot in Ohio under the condition that Ohioans implement some of these measures voluntarily.

One of the measures being tweaked is the exotic pet law. The legislation was already being revised to allow people to keep their existing pets, but not to acquire new animals or breed them. In light of recent attacks, especially the bear attack, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has acted to expand the measure to allow the state to confiscate animals from owners if necessary.

But this measure is another example of too little too late. None of the measures would eliminate exotic pet ownership entirely, just curtail it. There’s absolutely no reason for humans to confine wild animals. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, and not in the homes of human beings.

Even though it is the rare but tragic instance of an animal hurting a human that makes headlines, it is the animals who suffer silently everyday.

TAKE ACTION: Wild and exotic animals should not be be kept as pets!

Photo: Martyn Davies


William C
William C2 years ago


W. C.
W. C2 years ago

Thank you.

Crystal Kehoss
Crystal Kehoss4 years ago

Just like everyone has limitations with respect to the ownership and care of dogs, so does everyone have limitations on other types of pets. However, banning the tiny Marmmoset monkey which is the size of a guinea pig should not carry the same penalty. Rather than banning any species, it is better for all groups to lock arms and to educate the government on the differences. For instance, banning primates under 30 pounds only helps the poachers and laboratories. Education is key before making reactionary judgements about any species of animals. Case and point is the pit bull which is starting to regain its identity as the "Nanny Dog". (I can personally attest to this wonderful trait) However, I HAVE been educated on the muscle power, sheer strength and passion this dog exhibits. So goes the store with other species. DO NOT LET PETA AND THE HUMANE SOCIETY be your only source of information. There are plenty of experience animal advocates to also advocate their freedom to keep their family members with the family.

Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A5 years ago

As a fellow I work with likes to say, you can the animal out the wild but you never take the wild out of the animal. Some of course make better "pets" than others but better legislation needs to be in place,

Connie T.
Past Member 6 years ago

Hartson - ever seen a kangaroo cull?!

Connie T.
Past Member 6 years ago

A wild animal is a wild animal. They don't take kindly to restraint, deserving freedom and respect. Surely there are sufficient domesticated animals in the world to keep any reasonable animal lover happy?

Maria D'Oporto
Past Member 6 years ago

Balance is need, to bann things are not the answer better regulations are more efective solutions, just think some of this animales never will survive if there are no safe places that take care of them.

Ismail H.
Izzy H7 years ago

If you would like to help exotic animals, please vote daily until November 30 to save monkeys in Canada.

Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary is in the running to win $100 000 to build a new barn for more animal rescues!

Vote here: http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf10939

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran7 years ago


Rose Balcom
Rose Balcom7 years ago

Too bad you can legislate common sense! Because anyone that wants to keep a bear or tiger has completely lost it!