These wild animals can turn deadly in the blink of an eye. Yet thousands of people keep them in their homes.
Like many teens, Felicia Frisco loves her pet. But this Florida girl doesn’t own a goldfish or a kitten. Felicia and her family raise tigers. That’s right, tigers.
When Will the tiger was a cub, he slept in Felicia’s bed every night. “It’s kind of like raising a dog,” she said.
Felicia doesn’t think it’s weird to cuddle with a tiger. Lots of people agree with her.
LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS
Millions of people in the United States own exotic pets. These include wild animals like wolves, bears, and giant snakes.
The Humane Society believes that about 15,000 non-human primates, such as monkeys, are living in people’s homes. The group says there are about the same number of big cats, like lions and tigers.
It is legal to own a wild animal in many states. In some places, you don’t even need a permit or a license.
It is also surprisingly easy to get an exotic pet. You can buy a tiger cub online for just $300. That’s cheaper than some kinds of dogs!
Wild at Heart
Exotic-animal owners say they love having pets that surprise people. Jim Sautner lives in Alberta, Canada. He has a 2,000-pound bison named Bailey.
Sautner cut the roof off of his car so he could take Bailey for rides. He lets Bailey watch TV in the house, too. “Nobody ever told him he’s a bison,” Sautner says. “He thinks he’s human.”
But Bailey isn’t human. Like pet tigers, bears, and chimps, he’s not even tame. Zookeeper Jack Hanna compares owning this type of pet to having a bomb in your home. You never know when it will explode.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Exotic pets may start out as cute babies. But as they grow older, bigger, and stronger, they become harder to handle.
Tracy Coppola is an animal expert at Born Free USA. This group helps wild animals in captivity. “Most people cannot provide the special care the animals need,” she says.
Many need special food, space to roam, and lots of attention. Exotic pets are often kept in small cages all by themselves. This is cruel, says Coppola.
Exotic pets are not only hard to care for. They can make you sick, too. They can give humans many diseases, from measles to monkeypox.
And that’s not the worst danger pet owners face. An exotic pet is a wild animal. Wild animals can attack.
The behavior of exotic pets can be violent and hard to predict. Their actions might be natural in the wild—but not in your home.
In 2009, a pet chimp attacked his owner’s friend. He bit off most of the woman’s face. Hundreds of other wild pets have attacked or killed their owners.
Last October, an Ohio man released his 56 wild pets. His lions, tigers, and bears ran wild. Neighbors were terrified. Police had to kill most of the animals to protect the community.
“It was like Noah’s ark crashed,” says Jack Hanna. “It was beyond any horror.”
NEW LAWS AHEAD?
Many people want to prevent another tragedy like the one in Ohio. They say we need new laws to ban wild, dangerous pets.
The U.S. Congress will soon vote on two proposed laws. Coppola hopes they pass. “Wild animals belong in the wild, not in someone’s home,” she says.