Exotic creatures like chimpanzees, pythons, kinkajous and scarlet macaws have captured the hearts of animal-lovers looking for companions; but keeping exotic animals as pets can come with hidden costs – both for people and animals. Wild animals have lived for thousands of years without the direct influence of humans. They are adapted for survival in complex, wild environments. They are not well adapted to living with humans or in a house.
Wild animals have complex behavioral, social, nutritional and psychological needs. Most people cannot meet the needs of wild animals kept as pets. Wild animals need to be with members of their own species.
Apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, and gibbons, are intelligent, sensitive, and highly social animals. As our closest living relatives, they are fascinating, and ape infants are appealing. These attributes make apes popular as performers in commercial entertainment, advertising programs and, sometimes, pets. But this popularity and attractiveness masks the often cruel and dangerous practices commonly required for making apes compliant in such appearances. When kept as pets, apes can unexpectedly cause severe injury when natural instincts trigger fear, aggression, or other powerful responses. (see AZA's Program Animal Policy)
Parrots are the world's most endangered family of birds due to devastation from the international pet trade. The enormous global demand for these and other exotic pets is fueling the illegal capture and trade of millions of birds, mammals and reptiles annually, most of which die while being captured or transported.
Keeping wild animals as pets can be dangerous. Many can bite, scratch, and attack an owner, children, or guests. Animal owners can be legally responsible for any damage, injuries or illnesses caused by animals they maintain. Finding new homes for large, hard-to-handle animals can be difficult, if not impossible, particularly since most zoos are unable to accept them.
Wild animals can carry diseases dangerous or fatal to humans. Diseases include rabies, distemper, herpes viruses, salmonella, polio, tuberculosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and bubonic plague. Wild animals also harbor parasites, such as intestinal worms and protozoa.
Many state, county and city ordinances prohibit the ownership of wild animals as pets.
Dogs, domestic cats, guinea pigs, domestic rats and mice, domestic gerbils, common hamsters, domestic rabbits, domestic chinchillas.
Responsibly captive-bred parakeets, canaries, cockatiels, doves, and pigeons.
Responsibly captive-bred reptiles and amphibians such as red-footed tortoises, lizards (bearded dragons, leopard geckos), snakes (corn snakes, king snakes, ball pythons) and frogs (White's tree frog, ornate horned frog, fire-bellied toad, red-eyed tree frog).
Tropical fish that are captive-raised or collected from sustainable wild populations make good pets. Look for certification of sustainability from theMarine Aquarium Council when you buy tropical fish for your home aquarium.
Millions of dogs and cats are destroyed each year because they don't have homes. Shelter directories such as PetFinder are excellent places to find adoptable animals near you.