These 2 Florida Tragedies Show Why Wild Animals Make Terrible Pets

Weighing 130 pounds with sharp claws on each foot, the flightless cassowary is considered the world’s most dangerous bird. Marvin Hajos, who was breeding these birds on his farm in Alachua, Fla., discovered this the hard way when he fell and was attacked and killed by one of them.

The cassowary is a flightless bird native to New Guinea and some areas of Australia but not to Florida. These birds resemble “an ostrich as described by H.P. Lovecraft, or maybe a turkey fused with a velociraptor,” writes Jacob Brogan on Smithsonian.com. “When threatened, cassowaries can lash out with blinding speed, nail first. Those kicks can disembowel humans and other animals in an instant.”

Although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) lists the cassowary as Class II wildlife—meaning these birds can pose a danger to people and substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met in order to obtain a permit to keep, show or sell them—no permit is necessary in the state to breed the deadliest bird on Earth.

This fact was shocking even to Florida Rep. Chuck Clemons, who was unaware of it. He told the Gainesville Sun that all cassowary owners, including breeders, should need to have a permit. “Those things could kill a lion,” Clemons said.

Here’s a better idea: the FWC should outright ban the private ownership of cassowaries as well as other wild animals. Barely two weeks before Hajos was killed, a pet zebra, named Shadow, escaped from his yard in Callahan, Fla. Shadow never made it back to his inappropriate home.

“I was walking my dogs over there and all of a sudden we see a zebra trotting down this road, and it gets to this corner and stops and feeds,” Jenee Watkins told First Coast News. She said when “cop cars came zooming,” the zebra ran into a field. That’s as far as Shadow got—his owner arrived on the scene and shot and killed him.

“They could have lassoed him like they do in the rodeo, it was cornered,” another witness, Stephen Young, told First Coast News. When an FWC investigator arrived and Young told him the zebra had not been captured but killed, the investigator said, “No.”

According to news reports, Shadow’s unidentified owner did not have a permit to keep a zebra. He told the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office he killed Shadow, because the zebra had been injured during his escape. The incident is under investigation by the FWC and the sheriff’s office.

These tragedies within weeks of each other are two sad reasons why Florida needs to ban the private ownership of cassowaries, zebras and other exotic animals. How many more people and animals must die before Florida joins the 20 U.S. states that already do this?

Take Action

Please join more than 94,000 people who have signed this Care2 petition urging the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to regulate and enforce laws against the exotic pet trade.

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73 comments

Claudia A
Claudia Acosta27 days ago

Agree: Nicole Heindryckx said all ... and I say it is not wise to go against nature...

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Leo C
Leo C28 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Anna R
Anna R29 days ago

thanks for posting

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Michael Friedmann
Michael F29 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD29 days ago

tyfs

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Leo C
Leo C29 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Richard B
Richard Babout a month ago

signed

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Nicky Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckxabout a month ago

I totally agree that wildlife animals should never be kept and bred by private people. These animals belong in the WILD and not in an enclosure, mostly only one specimen, and are deprived of all their freedom. Especially animals like zebras live in big herds and are not used to be alone, or only with just a couple of his own species. Why are people so stupid to buy exotic wildlife animals, certainly when they do not know anything about their "normal" living conditions. Just to show off that they have enough money to buy them ?? Stupid, stupid, stupid. These animals are unhappy for their whole life, have no social or family life as they would have in the wild, and not to forget can cause serious damages to other animals or even people. Even zebras are not the best companions for men. It is not horses who can adapt easily to human's companionship. So, Florida MUST issue serious laws to avoid such animals to be kept and/or bred by private persons. Wildlife must stay in their own environment and together with others of his own species. The "culture" of keeping wildlife animals in your backyard is just too stupid, unhealthy and dangerous for the animals. Keep your hands off of these animals, and will be much better for the animals themselves and other people as well.

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Irene S
Irene Sabout a month ago

Signed already.

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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