Exotic animals dont belong as pets
What do a black bear, a Burmese python and an African pygmy hedgehog have in common? None should be kept as a pet.
Indeed, the law limits or prohibits people from keeping wild animals as pets in most states, but not in South Carolina.
It seems states like Florida have learned the hard way that exotic pets can be a danger to people and to the environment. And looking at the issue from the animalís point of view, some animals just arenít suited to domestication.
Take the record-setting 17-foot, 7-inch, 164Ĺ-pound Burmese python that was caught in Everglades National Park in April. A necropsy performed earlier this month at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Floridaís Gainesville campus revealed that the huge snake was pregnant with 87 eggs.
Itís no wonder that a study published early this year linked the boom of pythons (tens of thousands) to a crash in the numbers of raccoons, opossums and marsh rabbits ó python snack food.
Experts say the pythons were released by owners or escaped from pet stores during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Conversation starters as pets, but conservation enders in the wild, they coil around their prey and suffocate it. They can even swallow animals as large as deer and alligators.
During the past legislative session, state Sen. David Thomas, R-Fountain Inn, introduced a bill to control ownership of exotic animals and reptiles, but it languished.
Such legislation should be considered seriously next session. So far, South Carolina isnít plagued by pythons in the wild, but it is just as inappropriate and risky to keep as pets coyotes, wolves and bears, which some people do in our state.
Just this year, a 450-pound black bear was removed from the small backyard dog trot in which he was kept and given to Charles Towne Landing for its animal forest. There he has room to wander ó like a bear ó and he is no real threat to people.
Nevada, which does not restrict private individuals from acquiring dangerous wild animals as pets, is now considering such laws. It recently dodged a bullet when chimpanzees Buddy and C.J. escaped from their backyard cage in a residential neighborhood. Buddy was shot by a police officer.
Recall that a Connecticut woman lost her face in a 2009 chimpanzee attack.
And who can forget last year when an Ohio man freed his collection of tigers, lions, bears, monkeys and wolves and then shot himself?
Police officers, armed with little more than shotguns, were left to take on the deadly predators. Ohio state lawmakers, as a result, passed legislation prohibiting the acquisition of dangerous wild animals as pets.
Perhaps a tragedy involving exotic pets in South Carolina would wake up legislators to the need to restrict them.
But it would be better if lawmakers didnít wait for a tragedy. Common sense says chimpanzees, bears, pythons and wallaroos donít belong in residential neighborhoods ó even in cages.