Exotic Animal Industry in the U.S.

Guest Host:

Susan Page of USA Today
Exotic Animal Industry in the U.S.

The right to own pythons, tigers, chimps and other exotic pets depends on where in the US you live. The legal US wildlife industry doesn’t get much national attention unless someone is hurt, an exotic pet gets loose or an ecosystem is...

The right to own pythons, tigers, chimps and other exotic pets depends on where in the US you live. The legal US wildlife industry doesn’t get much national attention unless someone is hurt, an exotic pet gets loose or an ecosystem is damaged. A new report links Burmese pythons released in the Florida Everglades to the severe declines of in the region's mammals. In Ohio police shot and killed dozens of exotic animals including wolves, lions, and bears reportedly set free by their distraught owner. As some fight for more regulation, breeders, brokers and owners of exotic pets say they are being unfairly targeted. Guest host Susan Page and a panel discuss battles over the legal wildlife trade.

Guests

Wayne Pacelle

President and C.E.O. of the Humane Society of the United States

Andrew Wyatt

president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers

Zuzana Kukol

president and co-founder of Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership (REXANO)

Tim Harrison

director of Outreach for Animals, and advocate group for proper behavior around wildlife

Program Highlights

Last fall, Ohio Police killed 49 exotic animals set free by their distraught owner. A recent report says Burmese pythons released into the Florida Everglades are causing severe declines in the regions mammals. This type of reports has brought scrutiny to the exotic pets industry. Guest host Susan page and our guests take a look at different arguments concerned with balancing personal rights, public safety, and environmental health.

Differences Between Exotic Animals And Other Pets

The Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle noted that the most common domesticated pets, like dogs and cats, belong in our homes, enjoy our companionship, and are capable of being trained. Tigers, large predatory animals, constricting snakes, and other exotic pets don't, he said. "There are no good outcomes for these animals," he said. "They almost always end up injured or dead or relinquished."

Exotic Pet Owners Speak

Zuzana Kukol of Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership has owned exotic cats and thinks ownership of such animals should be regulated no differently than that of domestic pets. Andrew Wyatt, of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, has also owned snakes and pointed out that not all reptiles are "exotic." Wyatt admits that Burmese pythons and other invasive species are a big problem in the Florida Everglades, but he believes the problem is fairly limited.

Effect Of Animals On Environment "Devastating"

Pacelle disagrees with Wyatt and argues that advocates like Kukol and Wyatt "want to protect the right of private citizens to have dangerous predatory animals in their homes, even if they're causing ecological havoc, even if they're causing public safety threats, and even if the animals themselves are enormous victims of this trade," Pacelle said. Kuzol said that the number of people killed in the U.S. by exotic animals - about 3 per year - is much less than that of people killed by dogs, horses, and many other domesticated animals.

Wildlife Advocates Weigh In

A caller named Chet from Georgia, who is the executive director at the Georgia Wildlife Rescue Association, said that he has heard reports of what sounds like either an anaconda or a python in his state. He said that the snakes do seem to be moving further north and he has a sense that the problem might not be as well-contained as Wyatt believes. Chet has owned exotic snakes himself, but he does have reservations about anyone being able to enter a pet shop and purchase a snake that will eventually grow up to be enormous and potentially difficult to feed, handle, and care for.

You can read the full transcript here.

Related Video

Zuzana Kukol, of Rexano:

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