Wild animals belong in the wild

Caspar Star Tribune – Wild animals belong in the wild

Casper, Wyoming –
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wild animals belong in the wild

Even though few of us would want to cuddle with a cobra or snuggle with a skunk, exotic pets are gaining in popularity.

So much so that the city of Casper is considering additional restrictions to its wild-animal ordinance.

The proposed changes are reasonable, and should be adopted.

The changes would add coyotes, poisonous amphibians and insects, and crocodilian species such as alligators and caimans to the wild-animal list. The city already includes in its wild-animal definition “any live monkey (nonhuman primate), raccoon, skunk, fox, wolf, poisonous snake, leopard, panther, lion, lynx, or any other warm-blooded animal which can normally be found in the wild state.”

The ordinance doesn’t apply to small, caged birds or nonpoisonous snakes. Small rodents such as hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils would still be allowed, too.

Casper animal control director Chris Sulzen says he’d like to see the city make it “almost impossible” for someone to get an exotic pet permit, but a one-size-fits-all rule may be excessive. A person who wants to keep an emperor scorpion in his aquarium probably doesn’t present the same risk as a neighbor who wants to keep a tiger in her back yard.

Nevertheless, if exotic pet permits are issued, the city should be able to track where the pets are. A firefighter entering a home has enough to worry about without wondering whether the empty aquarium is empty because the rattlesnake got out.

Likewise, the city can’t overlook the potential harm that can be caused when pets get loose, either by accident or on purpose. Invasive plants and animals are a problem throughout the United States. Additionally, the considerable problems associated with domestic cats and dogs on the loose challenge the abilities of every municipality. There’s no sense in possibly adding to these problems because of loose local restrictions on exotic pets.

Exotic pets can also present risks the new owners may not be aware of. Remember monkeypox? A recent outbreak was related to prairie dogs that were being kept as pets.

There’s a tremendous, growing public interest in all things wild. Just look at the number of animal-related programs on television today, or at the fact that exotic pet treatment represents one of the fastest growing segments in veterinary science.

Our fascination with the full gamut of living things — even those that are dangerous — is not misplaced. Ours is a marvelous world full of wonder and mystery, and learning more about it enriches us all.

But in our fascination with all things wild, we need to remember that it is their wildness, and not their suitability as pets, that makes such creatures what they are.

Copyright © 2005 by the Casper Star-Tribune published by Lee Publications, Inc., a subsidiary of Lee Enterprises, Incorporated

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