|Diane's teacher conference includes topics like exotic animal release and the new elephant exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.|
However, our relationship with animals has taken a deleterious divergence. Exotic pets have become the latest fad in domesticated animals. Unfortunately, the state of Ohio has some of the most lax laws with regulating the sale and ownership of exotic pets. Why are suburban home owners allowed to raise and care for dangerous predators like bears, tigers and wolves? If I had a neighbor who was raising a chimpanzee, I would consider moving.
What motivates exotic pet owners to care for unpredictable predators? Unfortunately it is due to TV shows with people like Steve Irwin, Austin Stevens and Jeff Corwin. These animal exploiters depict wild animals in sensational and inhumane settings. Steve routinely teases the crocodiles or snakes on camera by picking them up by the tail or forcing them to strike him. In addition, many of the crocodiles seen on his shows are zoo-fed or sedated. This gives viewers an unrealistic impression of animal behavior in the wild and furthers animal cruelty.
Animal Planet has begun to air a new show called Fatal Attraction. This show will only incite suburbanites to become exotic pet owners. Exotic pet owners believe that they are conservationists since the animal's natural habitat is being encroached by humans. This is an honorable endeavor but many exotic pet owners don't realize that they are endangering nearby residents. Many exotic pet owners are unaware of the aggressiveness of chimpanzees as they age; or how a bite from an iguana is laden with salmonella (a stitched bite runs the risk of infection if not properly treated with antibiotics).
The keynote speaker at the CRCST conference was Tim Harrison, an exotic animal activist. For almost ten years, he has been assisting in the recovery of exotic animals that have been released into the environment. Whenever exotic pet owners become frustrated or unable to continue care for their animals, they liberate the animals in parks, fields or uninhabited spaces hoping for the best. Tim drives hundreds of miles to rescue these animals because first responders like police or fire personnel are often unprepared to capture these exotic pets. Moreover, exotic pets can escape like the chimp in Kansas City. These lost exotic pets become a public nuisance and potentially a menace to humans. Tim knows first hand how dangerous it is to coral a wild boar piglet, a six foot alligator or a capuchin monkey.
Tim wants educators and parents to know about the misperception that animal TV shows are propagating. Exotic pets are not meant for domestication like cats and dogs. They are unpredictable, strong and lethal. Tim hopes that his movie, The Elephant in the Room brings this message across.
We as humans have made appreciable advancement in the care and treatment of animals used in research and education. Now, we need to carry that success to the animals found in the wild. They deserve to have our respect, understanding and to remain undomesticated.