Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Exotic Pet Ownership Debate: Where Are Our Rights?





Imagine that you are conversing about illnesses with one of your good friends and the subject of disease transmission from pets comes up. Last week, you suffered from a debilitating fever that made you stay home from work. Your friend informs you that it is possible to contact certain diseases from your pet dog. You acknowledge this risk, but at the same time, it would never enter your mind that you would discontinue keeping your best friend just because it has the small potential to transmit disease. If such a conversation occurred about your beloved pet, how would you feel?

For various reasons, people do not think pet owners are as connected to their lifestyles as are cat and dog owners. In many cases, exotic pet owners are more invested in providing elaborate care for their animals.  With this fact, the bans, judgments, and disrespect that exotic animal owners receive are a double blow. Being lectured by people who could hardly call themselves ‘animal people’ about what pets we should not own, or are allegedly incapable of caring for, will obviously not be welcomed.
 
I can at least vouch for my perspective; the animals that I choose to care for (current and future) are extremely important to me, and I design my schedules, vacations (or lack thereof), and other common aspects of a person’s life that they do not need to consider and take for granted. Of course, the rewards of such a life are the reasons why many animal owners take on the challenge, and many cannot imagine being denied the right to do so.  



Attention keepers of animals of any kind.
  
From owners of farm animals to dogs, iguanas, sugar gliders, ants, cats, wolf hybrids, pit bulls, eels, wallabies, peacocks, brine shrimp, watusi, Siamese fighting fish, fireflies that you caught at the park during a July 4th fireworks festival and garter snakes. Do you support zoos, educational presentations involving animal displays or class room pets?

The climate of today’s society is rapidly changing. There is a strong disdain overall for the practice and lifestyle choice of captive animal keeping. Even animals that flourish, mentally and physically, in top of the line zoos and aquariums are not safe from the sentiment that animals long to be free and are suffering.  

The zoos of the past were certainly something to complain about. It was common for animals to be kept in small, barren cages that were unappealing to the visitors and denied the captive animals of their basic freedoms and overall health. Animals often succumbed to death early, and basic enrichment techniques were not developed. Today, scientific research has led to literature addressing all aspects of proper animal husbandry, offering captive animals a stimulating environment that meets all of their physical and psychological needs. These principals apply to ALL animals, not just the ‘wild’ ones.

With that being said, animal ownership has devolved from a choice, right, and way of living to an unstable privilege of a few outside of ‘traditional’ pets, being heavily prone to removal if even a single animal owner whom is not representative of the whole, is negligent in their care or actions..
Most pet owners are hard workers, have families, and pay taxes too. There are bad zoos, bad pet owners, bad drivers, bad teachers, bad dog owners, bad doctors, and bad people. But don’t ever let an incident involving an animal occur, because if it does, that means something should be banned; whether it be an ‘exotic’ pet, or ‘bully’ breed type of dog, or reptile. The expectations of certain pet owners are staggeringly high.

Even more important is the fact that as citizens, our choices that make our lives meaningful are not even taken seriously. How else would you describe such quick banning of non-lethal animals with insufficient evidence or facts showing that this group of animals is more harmful than those which are conventional? These animals that very small numbers of people keep are rarely even given the chance to be regulated as they should have been in the first place.

Banning pets is not like banning fireworks. It’s akin to telling a gardener they can no longer grow plants, or informing a dog owner they can only keep cats because some dogs have killed people. Non-pet owners and domesticated pet owners seem to refuse to abide by the philosophy that we should respect people’s differences. Respect doesn’t mean you have to condone something. All pet owners should be able to keep their pet of choice as long as they are not mistreating those them.

 There are many reasons why a person may want to keep a non-domesticated animal over a domesticated one (or both). There is no place for judgment on the reason, and only the welfare of the animal and the (possible) impact on the public remain valid concerns. However, it is illogical and unfair to expect better results from exotic pets over that of traditional pets. Nearly every animal can bite. All pet owning situations may result in a negative occurrence. Respect us and let us live our lives.


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