When people try to domesticate wild animals, it doesn't work out too well. People across the country are taking in lions, tigers, monkeys, raccoons and deer hoping to make them loving pets, but end up experiencing dangerous situations instead.
In her recent National Geographic article, Lauren Slater examines the problems people face when owning an exotic pet. Slater and Tammy Thies, founder of The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn., joined The Daily Circuit to share their knowledge about wild animals in domestic settings. Highlights from that conversation:
A tiger will act like a tiger: "I don't think there's a dispute that a lot of exotic pet owners love their animals wholeheartedly. And I don't think there's a dispute that for a period of time, things can go O.K. What happens is, these animals can have a life expectancy — especially big cats — of 18 to 20 years. And to say a tiger's never going to act like a tiger is pretty naive. And when that does happen, that's when the problem occurs. Not the nine times out of 10 the tiger's acting docile and wonderful. It's when the tiger decides to show its true stripes. Can the owner handle it? Is it safe for the public? And is it humane for the animal?" (Tammy Thies)
Animal Planet isn't reality:
"The Internet has made everything available at impulse rate, which is hard, because people aren't thinking about what 20 years of owning a little, cute cougar cub is going to be like. But also, these Animal Planet series and shows are so edited, and coined as reality TV, but really aren't, because they're produced, have made everybody think they can be an animal expert and own these, and kind of be a Jungle Josh or whatever you want to call them. And it's not reality. ... What most of these private owners are thinking, they're not bad people, but they really had a false notion of what they were getting into. And really, only one in a thousand people are really set up to be committed to an exotic animal for life." (Thies)
Who can resist a baby tiger? "They sell them as babies, and we are wired to respond to an infant species, especially if it's a mammal. People fall in love with the picture or with the actual animal when they meet it and purchase it. But when the animal reaches sexual maturity, its nature changes almost entirely and they find themselves in a pot of hot water, to put it mildly. ... They're well-meaning. They think that they can take care of them. They fall in love with them. A baby tiger is put into a woman's lap, and a baby tiger is adorable. It would be hard to resist a baby tiger." (Lauren Slater)
No wild animal would choose a cage:
"To me, [exotic pet owners] are having this animal for themselves. A tiger in a backyard — if you gave that tiger the option of living in a backyard cage or free-roaming, being wild, what do you think it would choose? ... When elephants are rescued from a circus and brought to a sanctuary, you don't ever look out at the sanctuary and see them doing their tricks." (Thies)
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To view the full photo gallery, visit National Geographic.