Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too Wild to Live at Home?

This week's Chimpanzee tragedy has raised the question: Do wild animals make good pets?

According the The Association of Zoos and Aquariums there a many reasons why wild animals don't belong in our homes.

Exotic creatures like chimpanzees, pythons, kinkajous and scarlet macaws have captured the hearts of animal-lovers looking for companions; but keeping exotic animals as pets can come with hidden costs – both for people and animals. Wild animals have lived for thousands of years without the direct influence of humans. They are adapted for survival in complex, wild environments. They are not well adapted to living with humans or in a house.

Brooklyn-based animal rescuer Sean Casey knows first-hand. Casey, who runs Sean Casey Animal Rescue, is the go-to-guy for the city's snakes, boas, goats, and other exotic creatures, many that are abandoned after the owner realizes they can't handle them. Most of them are illegal to keep in NYC. When I first visited Casey in his Brooklyn home a few years ago, I was shocked to find dozens of cages housing reptiles, bird, ferrets and all sorts of wild critters. Tortoises confiscated from Chinatown - many with cracked shells - were roaming around his backyard. Casey works hard to adopt the animals out; if they're not legal in the NY he tries to find them homes in areas where they are legal to own.

What's wrong with having a wild animal as a pet? Besides having complex behavioral and social needs that we cannot provide them, taking from the wild can endanger the species. Parrots are a good example; they are most endangered family of birds due to the devastation from the international pet trade.

Keeping wild animals is also dangerous, and it is most likely illegal. Many state, county and city ordinances prohibit ownership of wild animals as pets.

In today's NY Daily News, writer Rosemary Black outlines what wild animals are legal in NYC and what animal make good pets.

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