Lions and Tigers and Tigers (Oh MY) — Legal as Pets?

It’s a crazy world we live in. During the COVID-19 “stay-at-home” health crisis, I’ve done some binge watching on Netflix, especially the crazy “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” mini-series/documentary. I learned a few things. Such as the fact that more people privately own tigers in the U. S. (5,000-10,000) than there are tigers in the wild (4,000). A bit strange, to say the least.

So why do we keep destroying the habitat of these majestic wild felines? Wild animals need a place to live “besides” just a zoo, though I’ve no plans to horde “exotic” animals on my property. It’s expensive to care for wild animals that need many pounds of meat a week. No way would I almost wrestle with juvenile wild animals like lions or tigers. One of Joe Exotic’s workers loses most of an arm to a tiger, so, no thanks. I’d like to be a healthy distance from an unpredictable, wild animal.

The drama on display showed an acerbic, arrogant, complaining, partly hair dyed Joe Exotic (as he calls himself), with like five earrings in one ear and a penchant for the dramatic and wanting to be the center of attention all the time. But he couldn’t sustain his exotic animal park and was arrested for killing five healthy tigers (investigators found bones) and violating the Endangered Species Act for selling tiger cubs and some other animals. Oh– and he paid a guy $3,000 to kill animal sanctuary owner and rival Carole Baskins.

Now he’s in jail, a former partner taking over his former zoo in Oklahoma.

In researching this I learned a few things about wild ownership. Different states have different laws concerning the treatment and ownership of wild pets. You’d be surprised what you can own and where.

According to the site “Born Free USA,” in North Dakota you can get a special license for “nontraditional” livestock like Canada lynx, bobcats, wolf hybrids, and wolves. I’m not sure about lions and tigers, though.

In Pennsylvania, with a wildlife permit you “can” keep lions and tigers and bears (oh, my) — also leopards, coyotes, cougars, and crossbreeds.

In Virginia there’s a partial ban on owning nonnative “exotic” (foreign) animals as pets, including bears, wolves, coyotes, weasels, badgers, alligators, and non domestic cats. But you can, with an exhibitor’s license, have exotics for commercial, educational, or scientific uses.

Michigan State University has an exotic pet map online with a very comprehensive ban on specific wild animals, which includes animals in the states of NY, VT, Massachusetts, DE, CA, Oregon, Washington, and a few others.

Exotic pets, wild animals — why should we have “big cats” in our backyards? They are expensive to maintain and can be quite dangerous when full grown. Even if they seem tame enough for you to have your picture taken with them, they are not kitty cats. If you own one, you really should give it up to a zoo or nature sanctuary. Wild animals should be in as natural an environment as possible, don’t you agree? D.J.M.

Poll — should you go to jail for violating the Endangered Species Act?

 

 

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