I was pleased to see that the cover story on the April, 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine is about the keeping of exotic animals as “pets”. As expected from a National Geo article, Wild Pets – The Debate Over Owning Exotic Animals by Lauren Slater is full of facts, perspective, and gives the reader room for thought and reflection.
The author brings up pivotal points – including state and federal laws restricting exotic animal “ownership”, the dangers associated with keeping inherently-wild animals captive, statistics showing that more exotic animals are kept as “pets” than in zoos, and that there are unscrupulous operators who use their “rescue” status as a means to exploit and profit – and has insights from animal advocates, including Adam Roberts of Born Free USA and Patty Finch of Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
One of the things I found telling was the perspectives from people who “own” inherently-wild animals; a couple themes being that exotic animals give them a sense of uniqueness or makes them feel connected to the natural world. Notice the common denominator: My needs. Although there are people who may genuinely care about their animals, or who believe they are contributing to conservation efforts by “owning” these animals, the bottom line is that the needs of the animal seems secondary. I think if people are completely honest, take themselves out of the equation, and look at the situation solely from the animals’ perspectives, they will realize keeping them as personal “pets” is not in the best interest of the animal or species.