Keep the Wild in Your Heart Not Your Home
Why is a No More Wild Pets campaign important?
We can make a huge impact on improving life for millions of animals in our country by simply educating the public about the importance of choosing appropriate pets. Because there’s little regulation, exotic ownership has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. When a baby tiger cub can be purchased for less than the cost of a purebred dog, we have a serious problem on our hands. At first cute and cuddly, they soon grow into dangerous carnivores that are, all too often, destined to life in a backyard cage under deplorable conditions. Unlike domestic pets, there are few rehoming options for unwanted exotics. There can never be enough sanctuaries to take in all these unwanted animals.
- As of 2012, there are estimated 10,000-20,000 big cats in private hands – and they just keep breeding. These aren’t in zoos and accredited facilities, as you might think. Surprisingly, 95% of all tigers in the US are privately owned.
- Wild animals can be bought at auctions, from backyard breeders, on the illegal black market, via internet brokers, stolen from their natural wild habitats, or picked up as discarded surplus from zoos, roadside attractions, game ranches, etc.
- Even though big cats can be deadly, 8 states in the US still refuse to require even a permit or license in order to buy one. As of June 2011, only 21 states ban private ownership of exotics, 8 states have a partial ban, and 13 states require a permit or license.
- In the US, 21 people have died and 246 have been mauled by exotic cats since 2000. Captive tigers alone have killed at least 12 people in the US and mauled about 75 more. There have been 253 escapes, 143 big cat deaths and 131 confiscations.
- In 2011, there were only 105 inspectors to monitor 7,976 facilities, ranging from pet stores and circuses to slaughterhouses, laboratories and breeders. Just because a facility has a USDA license, it doesn’t assure the animals are well cared for. Only minimal standards are required for a license.
- It can take 5-10 years for authorities to shut down a substandard USDA licensed facility with multiple violations, injuries, and/or escapes. The legal process drags on while the animals continue to suffer and the public is at risk.
- As much needed legislation is passed and greater control is brought to the largely unregulated practice of importing, breeding, buying, and selling wild animals as pets, there are likely to be confiscated or abandoned exotic animals in increasing numbers. Critical to this will be the provision of accredited and secure facilities like The Wildcat Sanctuary and other wild animal sanctuaries to provide big cat rescue services and appropriate life-long care for all these animals.
- Our life-saving work has helped cats from 29 states and 2 countries.
No home, no cage, no backyard will ever replace a wild animals’ natural habitat. A ban on breeding and private ownership, as well as educating the public about the problems of trying to keep wild animals as pets, is our only hope for solving this captive crisis.
How will the No More Wild Pets program affect domestic pet overpopulation?
Animal welfare programs have made huge strides in reducing the number of unwanted animals killed in shelters each year. But, the numbers are still staggering. With approximately 5-7 million companion animals entering animal shelters nationwide every year, 3-4 million still end up being euthanized (60% of dogs and 70% of cats). With so many wonderful domestic animals in desperate need of homes, there is simply no excuse for purchasing or breeding dangerous exotics as pets.
- 5,000 independent community animal shelters nationwide offer a continuous, affordable supply of wonderful companion animals to choose from.
- 25% of dogs who enter local shelters are purebred. If a family has their heart set on a specific breed, a simple internet search will lead to rescue groups for that particular breed in almost all states.
- An adorable dog or cat can be adopted from the comfort of your home. Online adoptions are available through www.Petfinder.com, virtual home of 314,319 adoptable pets from 13,763 adoption groups. Other reputable online adoption agencies can be found at www.adoptapet.com and www.pets911.com
- Despite all the shelter dogs in need of homes, there are still 6,000 federally licensed puppy mills breeding and supplying pet stores with a constant stream of puppies. About 4 million dogs are bred in puppy mills each year, while nearly the same numbers are being euthanized in shelters each year. It’s cruel and doesn’t make sense. By adopting, rather than shopping for appropriate pets, the abusive puppy mill industry can also be shut down.
What happens when a wild animal is forced to be a pet?
Liberty, a cougar rescued by The Wildcat Sanctuary, is a prime example of what too many captive exotic animals endure. Most who buy an exotic pet have no idea about the animal’s special needs, nor the lifelong debilitating effects caused when they ignore them.
TWS arrived at a rural farm to pick up Liberty, a cougar being surrendered by her owner. What they found was astonishing – this cougar was no larger than a lynx! She was emaciated and dehydrated. No one could believe how small she was. The owner explained that Liberty had only gotten milk her first year of life. Liberty had fractured both of her back legs, which had gone untreated. Liberty couldn’t extend her back legs fully, and she suffered from a severe curvature of the spine and pelvis. The tops of her ears were dangling by a small amount of flesh and were about to fall off. She had urine burns on both sides of her tail. It’s hard to imagine that an owner would let an animal suffer like this, but it’s all too common.
The owner said Liberty wasn’t eating or drinking very well either. This was hard to believe since Liberty ate 4 times the first night she arrived at the Sanctuary and 8 additional meals the next day. She continues to love her food – in fact, she is the first to cry out in excitement when she hears the keepers at mealtime — and has put on weight each day now that she’s receiving proper care. Liberty weighed only 45 lbs. when she was rescued. That’s what a 6 month old cougar should weigh, yet she was 6 years old. The initial fecal exam showed Liberty also had round worms and coccidia, a type of bacterial infection. Good veterinary care is often a luxury for exotic pets since it’s so expensive and hard to find. Sadly, in the long run, the animals end up paying the ultimate price.
Baby Jenga, a bobcat, came to The Wildcat Sanctuary when he was just 6 weeks old. An individual in Iowa had purchased him from the internet as a household pet, but found out it was illegal in the Des Moines area and surrendered him. Soon after Baby Jenga arrived, it was obvious that something was wrong. His motor skills were impaired and he wouldn’t eat on his own. After several visits to the vet, it was determined Baby Jenga had brain damage and was touch-and-go for quite some time. It was assumed he was probably dropped during the shipping process from Montana to Iowa when he was just weeks old. But, after receiving many other surrendered bobcats and lynx purchased from the same breeder in Montana, it became clear that many had similar neurological issues. Unfortunately, the breeder is still selling wildcats via the internet.
So often, people buying exotic pets have no idea what they’ll be getting and have no option for returning or re-homing the animal. That’s why so many end up in backyard cages, in deplorable conditions, just waiting to die.
What can you do to help?
- Adopt, don’t shop. Don’t purchase a pet – domestic or exotic. Always adopt a homeless pet from a shelter or rescue organization and remember to spay/neuter to prevent overpopulation.
- Never have your picture taken with an exotic animal or pay to play with one. These are money-making schemes that just encourage rampant breeding of more and more baby exotics. Think about where all these animals will end up when they grow up.
- Don’t attend traveling exhibitions or roadside attractions featuring exotic wild animals. It’s a case of supply and demand. If we can stop the demand for wild animals, we can stop the breeding by suppliers.
- Contact fair organizers, malls, or venues exhibiting exotic animals to let them know you will not patronize them. Also, be sure to contact your local news media with letters to the editors or phone calls about the captive wildlife crisis. Like most people, many reporters know little about what’s behind these exhibits.
- Educate your children, your schools and civic organizations about the inherent abuse of life on the road for circus animals and other exotics on display. You’ll be surprised how few people have ever thought about it. The more who know, the more we save.
- Activate the No More Wild Pets program in your area, school or shelter.
You can download the No More Wild Pets brochure here.
See the No More Wild Pets Campaign Elements here.
See how Kids Can Help.