In the book Rascal by Sterling North, Sterling owns an uncommon and bizarre array of animals. From woodchucks to skunks and crows to now his most recent addition, a raccoon! There has been a gradually increasing wave to own an exotic animal as a pet. In a world where people want to do their own thing and be different, obtaining and owning something that is unique and somewhat controversial is becoming a lot more common. But, when you boil down the facts, the truth is that exotic animals should not be owned as pets for reasons such as wild instincts, the unmaintainability of these pets, and the possible severe health risks accompanied with being around these animals.
Exotic animals should not be allowed to be owned as pets because plainly stated, exotic animals are not domesticated. There isn’t a general shape or size of these animals and therefore no two exotic animals should be looked at the same way. Exotic animals can be found for sale in stores: green iguanas, macaws, and bearded dragons, for example. Other exotic animals such as primates, big cats, large snakes, and bears are up for grabs through the highly-profitable wildlife trade.
People that support the owning of exotic pets say that exotic animals can be just as good as common pets if treated properly. They say if the owner is willing to take on the extra responsibility and treat the animal well, then there shouldn’t be any problems.
However, that simply isn’t true. Owning an exotic animal takes a great level of commitment. Supporters of this argument totally disregard that exotic animals are considered exotic because one; they are undomesticated, wild animals; and two, the requirements that they need to survive is quite extreme compared to the common pets we have today.
Most exotic pets are purchased when they are young, but they become more and more unmanageable and aggressive as they get older. As they mature and get bigger, most of these animals will need a larger living space. If the owners are not capable of acquiring this extra space, the animals will become frustrated with nothing to do besides walk around a small enclosure. At this point, they will often begin to perform behaviors such as pacing or self-mutilation, signaling toward extreme mental distress. The want for these exotic animals is usually short-lived, yet it is the exotic animals who suffer in the long run.
Exotic animals require strict and specialized diets that are absolutely necessary for them to stay healthy. When their needs are not met, the animals end up malnourished and contract illnesses. Many exotic pet owners are not ready to provide tens of pounds of raw meat for full-grown tigers, lions, bears, or primates and other exotic animals with their appropriate dietary needs.
Exotic animals will usually contract diseases at some point in their lifetime. Zoonotic diseases can spread easily from animals to humans. According to the Center for Disease Control, exotic pets can infect humans with a variety of diseases including the Herpes B virus, Rabies, Salmonella, Ebola, and Monkeypox. Even though cases of these occurrences are rare, the increase in the number of exotic animals becoming pets (millions each year) certainly increases the chance of disease spread, posing a serious threat to the owners and the public.
We know the damage that can be done when uneducated and irresponsible people decide to buy an exotic pet. Even though some people have been able to live with these wild animals without getting harmed, these animals are still wild animals that deserve their freedom. Their minds and physicality are not suited to be pets, but sadly once they’ve lived their lives in captivity they are never able to survive being released back into the wild.