As of 2007, over 35 million households owned either dogs and/or cats (U.S.). However, there are some people who find owning such animals mundane and often opt for an exotic pet, which can be easily purchased via the internet. Most animals not native to an area are considered exotic. In the United States popular forms of exotic pets include big cats, primates, and different reptiles. Although these animals are adorable when young, they often require special care that is both expensive and time-consuming. As exotic animals mature they pose a variety of health and safety issues for society, from attacks and diseases to the destruction of an area’s natural ecosystem. Most exotic owners eventually tire of their pet, at which time the animal is surrendered to a rescue organization, released into the wild, or left alone in a pen until it meets its untimely death. Solutions to the problem are complex, however, education and stricter legislation could save many exotic animals from a life of captivity and people from suffering the brutal attacks these animals can inflict.
It is difficult to estimate how many exotic animal attacks occur in the United States every year because people do not always report the attacks. However, there have been many attacks too severe to be ignored, such as the attack on Roy Horn, famous for his Siegfried and Roy Las Vegas Casino act. Horn was attacked by a tiger, in front of 1,500 tourists, in 2003 leaving him seriously injured. Wounds suffered in the attack included bites to the arm and neck, as well as severe blood loss; Horn also suffered a stroke as a result of the attack (MSNBC). He had raised the seven year old tiger from the time he was a cub and performed with him for over six years. Immediately after the incident, Horn began requesting that the tiger not be harmed. Horn realized the animal was wild by design and should not be punished for the attack.
While most people are familiar with Horn’s story, few are familiar with the story of two- year old Shaunia Hare, who was strangled to death by a 12- foot Burmese python as she lay sleeping. The snake was considered a family pet and had escaped its glass aquarium the night it killed the child (ABC). The attack occurred in Florida, where a license is required to own a python; however, the owner had no license for the snake and did not face any charges as a result of the attack. Assaults such as these are horrifying but are occurring more frequently because of the rapidly growing exotic pet population.
Although not all attacks result in the death of the person involved, they nearly all result in the unreasonable death of the animal involved. Such was the case for a 200 lb chimpanzee that tore the face and hands off a visiting family friend. According to ABC News, “the chimpanzee was medicated at the time of the attack and there was no known provocation for the attack that occurred on February 16, 2009.” Victim Charla Nash, recovered from the attack, but the...