Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Six questions to ask before getting an exotic pet

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian 

You have seen the pictures – the cute little button face with big eyes that makes you say to yourself, “I want one, where can I get one?” Next thing you know, you are the proud owner of a Capuchin monkey, a chimpanzee, or some other exotic animal.

The bad news is that once someone turns you in-- and that is very likely-- authorities can confiscate the animal you paid hard cash for. Don’t expect to get your animal back. Furthermore, it could even be euthanized, because many wild and exotic animals are illegal to own in Washington State.

So before you purchase or otherwise acquire a wild or exotic animal as a pet, ask yourself these six questions:

1. How will I keep my friends, family and neighbors safe from this animal?
2. How will I meet all of its health requirements?
3. Am I prepared to care for this animal as a pet for 30 years or even longer?
4. Am I prepared for the liability that accompanies keeping a wild animal?
5. Where will I obtain veterinary care?
6. Most importantly, is it legal?

From wild to domestic

Dogs are thought to be the first animal domesticated as a companion, rather than as a source of food for humans, over a process that took thousands of years. Most modern breeds developed only over the last 200 years.

Domestication requires controlled breeding, many generations of investment, and starting with an appropriate species. Most wild or exotic animals, such as foxes, wolves, non-human primates, venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators, have not been subject to long-term domestication.

Wild and many exotic animals can pose risks to public safety, carry diseases that can infect humans, and require specialized diets and care.

Check the law

Most exotic animals are illegal to own under state law. In addition, many local ordinances governing owning exotic or potentially dangerous wild animals have rules even stricter than state regulations. Among the many reasons these regulations exist are to protect against the public safety and health risks, as well as concerns about the animals’ welfare.

So, before you take on the responsibility of owning an exotic pet, research the state law (RCW 16-30) and your own city or county ordinances.

Every year throughout the world, wild animals kept as exotic pets injure people. Animal companionship is wonderful, and many of us crave it, but domestic animals are a safer bet as pets.

Email us at ahealth@agr.wa.gov if you have questions about acquiring an exotic animal.