'Exotic' is just another name for wild in the animal kingdom

 
Published3/3/2009 12:07 AM

Q: Are wild animals legal to keep as pets?

- Dina Rusacous, Lemont

 

A: Wild animals are just that - wild, as we have tragically witnessed in the news recently. Whether the term exotic or wild is used when referring to nondomesticated species, it is imperative to respect the inherent qualities in wild animals. There seems to be an allure in being the person that tames the wild beast, but the quality of life for a wild animal should not be quantified in terms of human boundaries, luxuries or human interaction. To imprint human characteristics and behaviors on an animal will not - I repeat, will not - change inherent wild behaviors in exotic or wild animals.

Domesticated animals have taken hundreds of years of intentional breeding to allow bonding to occur with humans and still their animal instincts must be respected and never discounted. There is a pecking order, territorial behavior and prey drive, which must be factored into pet ownership.

When dealing with wild animals you are a caretaker, not a pet owner. To use the word "pet" implies domestication, which these animals are not. To house an exotic animal also requires USDA inspections and licensing and typically the animals are used for education by trained, reputable caretakers. Owning wild animals is illegal!

At the animal shelter we see these exotics imprinted upon and then discarded, often in a foreign environment in which they are unable to survive on their own, including alligators and caymen that are released in our ponds, and snakes abandoned in preserves when the novelty wears off. Or animals like prairie dogs that seem harmless but potentially carry zoonotic diseases like "monkey pox" that endanger the public health and well being of citizens. Remember, no matter how educated you become about a wild or exotic animal, "ownership" is self-serving and of no benefit to the animal or the community that potentially will pay the ultimate price. Our deepest sympathies go out to the victim of the chimpanzee attack and her family, and we hope for full recovery.

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Laws determining which exotic species are legal or illegal to possess vary from state to state and are regulated by both state and federal agencies. For more information regarding the housing of an exotic pet, visit any of these Web sites:

• Illinois Exotic Animal Laws: associatedcontent.com/article/773923/illinois_exotic_animal_laws.html?cat=17

• Illinois Department of Agriculture: agr.state.il.us/AnimalHW/awflaws.html

• Kerry Vinkler is director of DuPage County Animal Care and Control. To submit a question, e-mail animalcontrol@Dupageco.org or send a letter to 120 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton, IL 60187. You can also visit www.dupageco.org/animalcontrol or call (630) 407-2800.

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