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The Case Against Owning Exotic Pets

Steve Jurvetson

It's official: owning a dog or a cat is just not as cool as it used to be. Nowadays, anybody who's anybody owns a monkey, or a leopard, or a slow loris... Whatever that is. Indeed in today's age, with the desire to stand out leading us to make ever more questionable decisions, owning a creature everyone else is smart enough (or ethical enough) not to own is a true mark of distinction.

Some say this trend is owed to Hollywood with the proliferation of animated movies portraying wild animals as cute, cuddly and comical. Others point to celebrities themselves, who have no problem dropping tens of thousands of dollars on these creatures. And still others point to social media platforms such as Youtube and Facebook, where adorable images of these exotics abound.

Whatever the reason is, today there's neither a shortage of exotics to be bought nor a shortage of controversy surrounding their sale.

Regardless of your stance on owning exotic animals, the facts remain the facts. In Texas a four-year-old was mauled by a mountain lion his aunt kept as a pet. In Connecticut a 55-year-old woman’s face was permanently disfigured by her friend’s pet chimpanzee. In Ohio an 80-year-old man was viciously attacked by a 200-pound kangaroo. In Nebraska a 34-year-old man was strangled to death by his pet snake. And those are just just a few examples of the dangers exotic animals pose to humans.

And then there's the suffering of the animals themselves. In a 2011 incident in Zanesville Ohio, an exotic animal owner inexplicably released his entire collection from their pens and cages before taking his own life.

The animals began running loose around town, frightening citizens and disrupting traffic, requiring police to respond with deadly force. In the end, 49 animals were shot dead, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon. 

This hour we'll speak with experts and activists about what can be done to curb the rising trend of exotic animal ownership.

Please leave comments below, email us at Colin@wnpr.org, or tweet us @wnprcolin.


  • Tippi Hedren- Golden Globe winning actress who’s appeared in over 80 movies and T.V. shows including her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. She’s also a dedicated animal rights activist who founded the large cat sanctuary Shambala as well as the ROAR Foundation whose mission is to educate the public on the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals
  • Tim Harrison- Director of Outreach for Animals, a non-profit dedicated to the rescue and placement of wild animals kept as exotic pets. He’s also the subject of the award winning documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room and is currently working on the upcoming documentary American Tiger


Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

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