Keeping exotic animals as “pets”

By Deb Young

It may be hard to resist that exotic pet at the store. However, the importance of researching and preparing ahead of time for a new pet cannot be overstated. If you are thinking of getting a new pet, there are many factors you must consider before deciding on an exotic pet. You will have a much happier time with your pet if you choose one that meshes well with your lifestyle and needs.

Once you are sure an exotic pet will be well suited for you, you can set up a good home for your pet well before bringing him or her home. The transition to a hew home is stressful, and having a good environment ready and waiting for your pet will help your pet settle in with the least amount of stress possible.

Even though being drawn to the beauty of exotic animals is natural, remember extreme caution is necessary. Many exotic animals do not make good pets since they can be unpredictable and difficult to handle. The resources and commitment to care for an exotic maybe more difficult for the average owner to manage. The line between exotic and domestic is hard to define, especially when it comes to reptiles and amphibians. However, sticking to captive bred and easy-to-manage animals is the best choice for the majority of people.

There have been several incidents in recent years where owners were killed by their large constricting snakes. Since the feeding drive is so strong even tame snakes sometimes instinctively start constricting when something triggers a predatory response. If you own a large constrictor, you should always have a second person present when handling, feeding, or cleaning the tanks of your snake (someone who can help you or at least call for help if necessary). Even experienced owners can get into trouble unexpectedly since these snakes are so strong, so this is a guideline that can save your life.

The phobia related to the fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia . Fear of reptiles in general is Herpetophobia. Both are very common, so walking down the street with your snake around your neck is probably not a good idea.

Know your laws, in Massachusetts : No person may possess as a “pet” a wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian unless the animal was owned prior to June 30, 1995. This group is defined as any undomesticated animal that is not the product of hybridization with a domestic form and not otherwise contained in the exemption list.

Being a responsible exotic pet ownership is good for you and your pets, but is also means being a good ambassador for exotic pet owners everywhere. Given the increased attention to incidences of injuries and illness from exotic pets, and invasive species resulting from irresponsible owners releasing their exotic pets, responsible guardianship of the animals we choose to keep as pets is more important than ever.

I can’t say this enough: never release an exotic pet into the wild! There are several problems with this, both for the pet and for the ecosystem. If you can no longer care for your pet, the responsible solution is to find another home for your pet or turn it over to a shelter or rescue.

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