Why exotic animals are not suited to be pets

Animal Speak – with Lindsay Currie, chair of the community council, Kamloops and District Branch of the SPCA

The recent death of two boys in New Brunswick has highlighted the issue of exotic animals.

An exotic animal is a wild animal taken from its natural habitat or bred in captivity.

In B.C., we have some of the most progressive legislation in the country that regulates the sale, breeding or keeping of exotic animals by private individuals.

So why shouldn’t we keep exotic as pets?

Wild animals can never truly be companion animals; they are not domesticated, and they will not thrive as a pet.

They also will not act like pets, regardless of the marketing done by breeders and sellers.

Captivity leads to both psychological and physiological stress for exotics, because they are difficult to care for properly.

As well, in captivity, most exotics are not able to express normal behaviours that promote their own well-being.

When their welfare needs aren’t being met, many exotics either self-mutilate or go into a state of depression.

Mortality levels for exotics are also high because they tend to mask signs of illness or injury (a highly important trait in the wild).

By the time that people realize their iguana or hedgehog is sick, it is too late.

Of the exotic animals that are captured from the wild, more than half die before becoming “pets”.

Their deaths can involve great suffering, including from dehydration, starvation, hypo- and hyperthermia, stress, and attacks by other captive animals.

There are also concerns of public health and safety.

There are the high-profile deaths like those in Campbellton, but unreported bites and illness pose an even greater risk.

Exotics can transfer serious diseases to humans and our companion animals through bite wounds or scratches.

Physical size and strength are obvious risks, but as even small exotics mature, they can become aggressive and bite, or use talons, beaks, spines, or tails to lash out.

There are a host of reasons that we should not keep exotic animals.

Other provinces may follow BC’s lead and ban the possession, breeding, sale, and keeping of such animals by private individuals.