There are few things more exciting to a child than the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals that they don’t see every day. The appeal of a zoo, petting zoo, circus, wildlife park, or animal oriented theme park draws millions of people each year to gaze at the wondrous unfamiliar with wide-eyed amazement. Those settings are expected to reliably retain the appropriate personnel and design features to ensure the safety of spectators and visitors, and they generally live up to those demands.But what happens when the same wild animals are kept by people without training or supervision? Fifty years ago, the notion that people would keep bears, tigers, monkeys, and other undomesticated creatures as pets would have been seen as ludicrous. Today, however, that former fantasy is a contemporary reality.Animal companionship is nothing new, of course. Dogs and cats have been part of the household for thousands of years, and there is a burgeoning billion dollar industry centered upon owner willingness to put forth expenditures for toys and other luxuries. However, as pets become more pampered and the traditional pet-owner paradigm is replaced with overtones of aristocratic and dynastic fancy, unusual, “exotic pets” become increasingly desirable as a marker of status.This dangerous game of one-upsmanship has resulted in a niche population of people who keep wild animals in private homes as pets. These owners lack the training of the animal experts in the aforementioned arenas, and these homes do not have the necessary safety precautions built into the design.There is a gap between risk and awareness of these situations, because although reports of attacks by dogs are not unfamiliar to the public, exotic pet incidents resulting in serious personal injury or death remain under the collective radar because of the comparatively small number of these animals. Despite the relative infrequency of events involving exotic pets, the severity of those that occur is somewhat startling.Big cats are a favorite for exotic pet enthusiasts, and the inadequate supervision of a lion and tiger in Minnesota resulted in the paralysis of a ten-year-old boy visiting the family friend whose “pets” would change his life for ever. In Chicago, a pet Rhesus macaque monkey escaped and bit a fourteen-year-old girl viciously enough that she required hospitalization.The laws regarding exotic pet owner liability remain somewhat amorphous, but it is advisable for anyone who has been attacked by such an animal to contact an attorney for advice. If you have occasion to be in close proximity to a privately owned exotic pet, be especially wary or you may sustain serious injury. And remember: although children love animals, be sure to let them enjoy the experience in a safe, secure setting.
For anyone who has ever seen the movie “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock, seeing wild birds congregated heavily in one area is sure to send shivers up their spine. Thanks to movies and literature some species of birds have gotten quite a bad rap.They are viewed as either vicious scavengers that are intent on death or they are portents of dark times. Even worse is when the bird is associated with death and seeing one is supposed to be a message that bad times are coming. Is it fair to isolate certain species of birds from their brethren just because they are not as beautiful?Light tales of love from Disney or twisted tales of doom by poets such as Edgar Allen Poe have kept the crow/raven in its sinister spot. In “Sleeping Beauty” by Disney, the villainess has a pet crow/raven that is used as her evil spy. Poe had his raven that kept crying “nevermore” in his piece titled quite apropos “The Raven.” Maybe it is the fact that crows travel in packs called murders. The birds portrayed in these classic works of fiction have certainly made their mark in our minds.The wild bird definitely deserves some respect. It is just like other wild animal. You have to keep in mind that it is territorial, will defend itself and has to find a food source. And while crows/ravens have received some bad press thanks to authors and filmmakers, vultures and other carrion eating birds have repulsed mankind for eons. This bird species is a scavenger.Anytime you see vultures or buzzards circling in the air, you know that there is either something dying or something that has already died. Most people do not set up bird feeders to attract these types of pets. They want colorful birds, songbirds and delicate hummingbirds to grace their gardens and yards.The birds that literature and film have targeted deserve a break. They are only doing what is in their nature. There really is nothing insidious about what they do. They do not target small towns to terrorize them.They do not bring a portent of doom and gloom to those individuals that they visit. They are two legged, winged wild animals that are what nature programmed them to be. It is a thought to keep in mind the next time you are in a movie theater, watching television or reading a book. Nature decides what these species are designed for.