Ask an Expert – Wild Animals Are Not Pets
A woman from New York paid $1800 for a nine-week-old leopard. She thought the animal was friendly and cute – until she got attacked.
A Pennsylvania woman was killed after her 350-pound “pet” black bear, which she had raised from a cub since its infancy, attacked her.
A family keeping a red fox in captivity turned it into a shelter. The fox was blinded because it wasn’t being adequately fed.
The unfortunate situations of these people trying to make pets from wildlife are not isolated.
In addition to the dangers that wild animals in homes could face, having wildlife as pets is also dangerous for humans. Born Free USA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the ownership of wildlife animals. Since 1990, they have documented more than 1,500 attacks and 75 deaths in humans involving wild pets.
Private ownership of wildlife in most states is prohibited. Wild animals require special care, and keeping them alive and healthy in captivity is challenging. For normal development to occur, proper nutrition is vital. Any deficiencies can cost an animal its life.
It is not a pet. Unlike domesticated dogs and cats, raising a wild animal as a baby or keeping it in your home does not qualify it as a pet. It is still a wild animal.
Since 10,000-15,000 years ago, humans have been breeding dogs, cats, and livestock such as cattle, sheep, and cows. The process of domestication occurs over several generations. Over time, unwanted traits of a particular species are eliminated through domestication. Even so, animals retain their ability to kill and maim. In the United States, four and a half million dogs bite people yearly.
Wild animals can carry diseases that are transmissible to humans and pets. Some, like rabies, are deadly to humans. Wild animals are susceptible to the same diseases as our pets, like distemper. Wild animals, unlike pets, are not dewormed or vaccinated against diseases. They also do not see a veterinarian regularly. Wild animals can carry infectious diseases and parasites that harm people and pets.
It is questionable to take an animal out of the wild and then keep it in captivity.
Some reasons include ignorance about the dangers associated with wild pets, curiosity, love for animals, ego or novelty, and even profit. Most often, people decide to adopt orphans. A captive wild animal, however, is a prisoner trapped between instincts and the need to depend on humans for survival.
When a captive animal becomes independent from its caregivers, it can become aggressive, frustrated, or bite, resulting in injury or death. The animal has yet to have the thousands of years that domesticated animals do to overcome their wild instincts. It may escape or be released in the wild or brought to a wildlife rehabilitation center. It may be too late to teach the animal survival skills or social behaviors appropriate for its species.
Utah law does not protect certain wild animals, so you don’t need a hunting or trapping permit to capture them. It would help if you had a visa to keep wild animals in captivity, such as raccoons or coyotes. Utah prohibits the importation, distribution, and relocation of coyotes, raccoons, or their holding in captivity.
Animal control officers, peace officers, or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources may seize unpermitted wild animals immediately. Contacting one of these agencies or a licensed wildlife rehabber is the best way to handle an illegally kept wild animal. The animal will be assessed to see if it can be socialized again with other animals of its kind and can forage independently. Wild animals raised by people are not prepared to live in the wild. Release a wild animal from captivity is likely to doom it to starvation, unnatural predators, accidents, or a chance encounter with humans that it may perceive as friendly.
Consider these things if you are looking for a pet. Most of the 3,000,000 cats and dogs euthanized yearly in shelters are healthy, treatable, and could have found new homes.