Expert: Wild animals should not be pets

There's a reason they're called "wild animals" — they were born in the wild and should stay there and people should not try to make them pets or the consequences can be deadly, said an animal behavior expert at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, contends that exotic animals, such as lions, tigers, cougars, bears and chimps are best left to be cared for by zoos, not individuals hoping to make them pets.

"Wild animals do not adapt well outside of their native habitat," she said.

"They tend to retain their basic characteristics and their wild nature, and people who try to make pets out of them often get hurt, some very badly. I would strongly urge anyone considering buying an exotic animal to think twice about the idea. There is not one good reason to own one."

Beaver added that there are some amazing stories of individuals who have owned a wild animal for many years, and for no reason at all, the animal turns on them and attacks, sometimes with fatal consequences.

"Something usually triggers the aggressive response in the animal. Either it didn't get what it wanted, or it perceives something or someone as a threat, or it even has a medical condition that is causing it pain — any of these can make the animal turn on its owner quickly and violently.

Another big reason not to own such animals: cost.

The animals often have hefty price tags, some of them costing thousands of dollars, and they often need a special diet that can be very expensive.

Beaver said that even animals that have been declawed or have had their teeth filed down can still cause significant damage to a human. And because exotic animals are often kept outdoors, it means they must be placed in cages, and very often there are numerous problems about such living arrangements, she notes.

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2009-11-19 digital edition

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