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Wild animals as pets

Is it okay to have certain wild animals as pets?

Wild animals should NOT be kept as pets, for a number of reasons:

  • Everything in nature has a role to play -- in nature. When you take a creature out of the wild and put it in captivity, you are keeping it from performing its role. It is unable to breed, to be a part of a food web and nutrient cycles, to provide a home for its parasites, to build nests that might be used by other creatures, and to contribute to evolutionary processes. Keeping it even for a short time may cause it to miss critical windows of opportunity and might even result in some other animal starving to death. Every piece of the complex puzzle that we remove from the system weakens the entire system.
  • When you take an animal out of nature, you deprive other people of the aesthetic and educational values that they might experience by encountering that animal in its natural environment. As you probably know, there is no substitute for the pleasure of seeing, hearing -- even smelling -- wildlife. Captive animals are no longer wildlife.
  • Wild animals generally don’t make good pets. Unless they begin life as captives and are raised by experienced, knowledgeable people, they usually remain wild and don’t adjust well to captivity. Animals acquired when young often grow beyond their owners’ ability to cope with them and may become dangerous. It is very challenging to provide wild animals with the proper conditions for a healthy, humane, captive life. Most require specialized diets and more room than most people can provide. Social animals have a particularly difficult time adjusting to what is, in most cases, solitary confinement.
  • An ever-increasing number of species are declining in the wild. Taking them from the wild may contribute to these declines. In fact, many populations and even some species have been wiped out by collecting for the pet trade.
  • Keeping wild animals without a permit is usually illegal. Not all animals are so protected; inquire of your local agency for specifics. State and provincial wildlife agencies will issue permits to qualified individuals and institutions to keep wildlife in captivity for the purposes of education, research, propagation, and rehabilitation.
  • Pets can be an invaluable source of companionship and provide children with an opportunity to learn responsibility. Mankind has spent thousands of years domesticating a wide variety of animals for these purposes, and such animals are well adapted to -- in fact, dependent on -- captivity. There’s really no need to tread on the legal, ethical, and practical thin ice of keeping wild animals as pets.

If you already have a wild animal that you wish to release, considered this carefully. Do not release animals into areas in which they aren't native, into inappropriate habitats, at inappropriate times of day or year, or unless you are confident that they have the skills to survive in the wild and are not carrying diseases. For advice on releasing or turning in wild pets, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center.

We hope this helps,

eNature Naturalists

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