Friday, October 9, 2009

Pets gone wild

African Death Adder

Pets gone wild
by Robert A. Waters

“These things are not tame animals, they’re wild animals.” Tim Conway, Pennsylvania Game Commission.

In July, 2009, near my hometown of Ocala, Florida, an eight-foot-long Burmese python slithered out of its cage for the second time in one night. While its owners slept, the serpent coiled around the neck of two-year-old Shaiunna Hare. Later that morning, Charles Jason Darnell, 32, awoke to find that the python had killed the child. Darnell and his girlfriend, Jaren Ashley Hare, 21, face numerous charges including third-degree murder, manslaughter, and child neglect.

A few months earlier, in Connecticut, Charla Nash, 55, was brutally mauled by a 200 pound chimp called Travis. Nash had been called to the home of her friend Sandra Herold to help round up the chimp and put it back inside the house. Nash was permanently maimed and blinded by the beast. In what many people considered irresponsible behavior, Herold had raised the chimp as if it were her child.

Now I read in the news where a 350 pound black bear killed Kelly Ann Walz, 37, as she was cleaning its cage. According to the Associated Press, Walz “went into the bear’s 15-by-15-foot steel cage about 5 p.m. Sunday, throwing a shovelful of dog food to one side to distract the bear while she cleaned the other side...At some point, the bear attacked her.” A neighbor, who used a handgun to kill the bear, said it was a pet.

There have been hundreds of other cases of serious attacks. One of the most well-known was the mauling of Roy (of the act Siegfried and Roy) in front of hundreds of Las Vegas spectators. A white Bengal tiger used in the show severely injured the entertainer during a performance. Michael Peterman, an Ohio firefighter who collected exotic snakes, was bitten by his pet African rhino viper. He died before anti-venom could arrive. In Australia, a pet Death adder nearly killed its owner after striking him several times.

I’ll admit that I don’t see the joy in keeping wild animals as pets. That doesn’t mean I’m not an animal lover. I like them where they belong: in the wild. I love watching nature shows such as “Animal Kingdom” and “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” But most of what I see on those shows are animals eating one another. Those violent scenes are not for the faint-hearted. Many animals eat their prey alive, tearing away its flesh bit by bit. Some snakes swallow their victims whole as venom destroys internal organs and causes paralysis. Whatever the case, death is usually prolonged and agonizing.

It stands to reason if beasts are taken out of the wild, they’ll eat whatever is available--including humans. In my opinion, people who attempt to raise animals as surrogate children are close to being clinically insane.

While I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy, this kind of thing drives me berserk. My mom used to have a yellow and white-striped cat (yep, he looked like a miniature tiger) that wasn’t content with assassinating mice and lizards and murdering fish in the lake behind the house. This thing would climb the huge oaks in my parents’ yard and catch and eat squirrels. There always seemed to be bones and tails of the unfortunate victims of this carnivore scattered about the front yard. I’ve hated cats ever since.

Many pet-owners will no doubt disagree. But I’ve just never understood the need to make wild predatory animals into lovable pets. Get yourself a bred-to-be-a-pet Chihuahua or Boston terrier and let wild animals live in the jungle and kill each other--not humans.

[This is obviously an opinion piece. Regardless of my feelings about this matter, I don’t favor additional laws restricting what a person can and can’t own. In all things, I believe in more freedom, not less.]

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