In recent years there has been a rapid increase in exotic pets and people trying to think of the latest craze to spread across the world. More new breeds are appearing to meet the demand and fewer and fewer vets are able to treat and properly care for these strange critters and creatures.
The question is. Should vets be trained to treat all of these exotic and potentially dangerous animals? or should people stop keeping them as pets?
1. Wolf-dog Hybrid
Wolf-dogs are the hybrid between a wild wolf and a domesticated dog. In recent years these have become a more popular choice for an exotic pet that people think will give them an exotic dog. They are an especially high problem in the United States but are increasing in numbers around the world.
So what's the difference? dogs came from wolves, right? Right! but the difference between wolves and dogs lies in the THOUSANDS of years of evolution between them. Wolves are natural hunters that do not rely on humans to food, care, or anything else. They can survive in very harsh conditions, work in packs and are not loving or cuddly like dogs usually are. Wolves are fearful of humans but have been known to maul, kill or savage them along with other animals - including dogs!
The hybrid is especially dangerous as the domesticated dog does not have a natural fear of humans the way a wolf does. Combine this with a wolf and you have a very dangerous, powerful animal with a hunting mentality that has no fear of humans or other animals. The hybrid is capable of killing large dogs, humans and even small horses/ cattle! Attacks in recent years are growing in numbers. Hybrids in groups are especially dangerous as they will attack in their pack mentality and maul you, your children, or your pets to death.
Wolves also cannot be vaccinated against rabies and many other diseases, this includes the hybrids meaning they pose a serious threat to your health as well as the health of other animals.
Hybrids cannot be trained the same way a standard dog breed can and pose a much more serious and real threat to humans than any of the stereotypical dangerous dog breeds do e.g. Staffordshire, German Shepherd, Mastiff, Kane Corso, etc.
Sandra L. Piovesan bled to death after being mauled by a pack of nine wolf dogs that she had raised as pets and was so devoted to that she once told a neighbor they "give me unqualified love."
Although not illegal in many places, most countries will remove a wolf hybrid from the care of an owner especially if they are living in an urban area where lots of people and pets are around. They are too dangerous and if you see one, or think you have seen one, please report it to the police as soon as possible. You could save someone's life!
The chimpanzee is not a very popular pet in western countries, but that doesn't mean people don't keep them.
Why are they dangerous? Chimps are insanely rebellious, strong and prone to launching into frenzied and violent attacks. Due to their physical strength and large teeth, they can do severe damage to humans and other animals. Chimpanzees require a lot of attention, a lot of stimulation, a lot of space and an owner with a perfect schedule. There have been reported attacks where humans have come home late from work and been mauled by a chimp for breaking their routine. Chimps also become bored, lonely and frustrated with their environment/lack of a sexual partner which can cause bouts of uncontrollable rage.
People mistake chimps for the ones in the wild that are affectionate, cuddle with their mothers and are docile, or with trained ones on TV. Those trained ones are not normal chimps and do not lead the same lives as pets or wild ones. Chimps are very dominant, violent and require CONSTANT contact with the mother/human. Infant chimps even in captivity are given 24 hours of constant touching, attention, love and feeding. Without it they can become extremely dangerous and problematic. Humans cannot give them the care they need.
Unfortunately, chimp attacks happen more often than not. In the UK it is not legal to keep a chimp as a pet. It is also not legal to import or export them, breed them outside of a zoo, etc as they pose such a serious risk. Certain types of chimp carry the HIV virus which is transmittable to humans.
3. Teacup puppies.
Most people don't know what this term actually means and believe it's a miniature version of a particular breed (especially smaller breeds) but this is in-fact not the case.
Teacup puppies are bred specifically to be micro-sized little dogs with a guaranteed lifespan of 1 year. They are usually small enough to fit into a teacup or the palm of your hand when weaned off and do not grow much, if any, larger. You can distinguish these dogs by their small body, short legs and large heads. They have been specifically designed to look like cartoon cute pups with big eyes, big heads and little bodies. I'm sure you've seen something similar in toy shops.
The unstable, cruel breeding of these dogs promotes nothing but abuse. They are continuously overbred and inbred so severely many don't live past 1-2 years and are prone to any number of health problems, behavioural issues, mental instability and genetic disorders. Cases have cropped up with these dogs behaving like stuffed toys and being quite unresponsive to stimuli.
These dogs are a particularly large trend in the US ranging from $3,000-10,000 a pup in some cases. In the UK it is a very similar amount. You can imagine the puppies that survive long enough to find homes are going to rake in a lot of cash from people. Sadly, registering yourself as a breeder (able to breed more than 4 litters in a year) qualifies as it not being animal cruelty which instantly makes these people "professionals" thus, the dogs continue to be bred.
People seem horrified by this and there's always a list of people screaming about how wonderful their snakes are. The majority of time, snakes are neglected, in poor conditions and are not being cared for correctly - unintentionally! Even non-specialised snakes require a lot more time and attention than many other pets.
Wild snakes are not dependent on humans for food and much of the time humans allow them to trap their own food within their tanks. Many snakes that do escape are capable of surviving weeks and even months without human help.
Quite often, the fangs of snakes are cut, removed or broken to prevent biting. These poor animals suffer greatly through this. Many snakes are quite badly abused by traders and breeders and without fangs they are unable to defend themselves whether they escape or not.
Salmonella is a huge problem with snakes, handling them, touching them and letting them out of their tanks can contaminate skin, fibres or any other surface with this nasty bacteria that can make you seriously ill and even hospitalise you. Snakes and other reptiles pose the highest risk of contamination.
Releasing snakes into the wild or having accidental escapes from cages and them breeding in your home or getting out into the garden is a problem. They can cause havoc to wildlife and natural snake populations.
Many snakes are illegally imported and bred from continuously in cruel conditions to meet the rapid demand that is rising faster than ever in the last couple of years. Snakes that are bred and for sale are typically bred in horrible conditions, overbred, inbred without little thought or consideration and sold off to people to meet the demand and gain some extra cash. Overbreeding and inbreeding causes illness, deformities, behavioural problems, genetic disorders and other issues. These animals are not something to be taken lightly and should not be made widely available. Even ones bred properly can become seriously unwell during transit to homes or to pet stores and are often sold in below par condition. Many of these "captive" bred snakes have actually come from trapped wild snakes.
5. Sugar Gliders.
Sugar Gliders "Suggies" are small marsupial creatures native to Australia and Indonesia. Whilst they are not physically dangerous, they shouldn't be kept as a pet based on animal welfare guidelines. These animals require specialised care from a highly knowledgeable owner that has the time to give them.
Suggies require a lot of attention, a very specialised diet, and more space than most can possibly give them. You can't keep them alone and should be kept in pairs or small groups of the same sex (to prevent breeding). The diet of a the SG is so specific and takes a lot of preparation. They require nectar drinks, vitamins, supplements, fresh fruit and vegetables, water, and other things to keep them healthy. Even having all of this does not guarantee them good health as they are very unpredictable and prone to complications. The care of these animals cannot be given to a beginner, the neighbour while you're on holiday or to children.
The cost to purchase these animals alone is £400-1000 for a pair or small group depending on their breeding. The majority come from unknowledgeable and cruel backyard breeders that do not care for the animals and are just looking for the money. Often the breeding takes place in unsanitary, dangerous or cramped environments. Cannibalism is a very high risk in SGs anyway but in these conditions it can become much worse. Many are overbred as well as inbred hosting an array of genetic disorders, deformities, diseases and shortened lifespan.
Another issue is the vet care. Most vets are not trained in these exotic pets or have been trained very little. There are few that can cater to them and little they can treat them with. They are not included in insurance plans so anything you have to pay will be out of pocket - anywhere from hundreds to thousands for treatment.
Importing these animals is illegal and so is exporting. Many of the ones for sale have come from imports (legal or illegal) and are crawling with disease that can wreak havoc on the eco system, other animals and even cause health complications in humans.
6. Crocodile/ Alligator
Yes, you might be surprised to know that these animals are becoming an increasingly popular pet around the world, especially in native countries e.g. Australia, the Americas, etc.
These animals are dangerous, unpredictable, strong and cause many problems for people living in places such as Florida where you have to call someone to remove one from your property. Their powerful jaw could crush and kill you, the neighbours dogs or someone's child. Escapes from handlers are quite common.
It is illegal to own either of these in the UK as well as to breed them outside of a zoo or import/export them or their eggs. Different countries have different laws regarding these but in the majority it is illegal to own, trap or kill them.
7. Wild Mice/Rats
When people think of rats they think of the plague - no.
Mice are by nature incredibly timid creatures with a high metabolism and fear response. These tiny animals have few few bones but easily suffer from health problems as well as serious injury. Wild mice in particular. Fancy Mice, aka, the ones you find in the pet shop, are wonderful pets!
Wild rats and mice can carry a lot of bacteria that our fancy friends do not. Not only can they spread Salmonella, there are many other nasty germs on them that can make you, your family and other pets very sick. They can also carry fleas, ticks, mites and cause allergies. Don't forget, these animals run around in the rainwater, animal toilet, scavenge food from bins, dig in the mud and even come into contact with sewer lines. Typically, a wild mouse or rat isn't going to hurt you living near your house or in your shed, but it should not be trapped and kept as a pet.
Don't forget, wild animals might have babies! you could be trapping an animal that has a litter of pups that are relying on their mother and without her they will die.
Trapping animals can cause strokes, heart failure, and even death from panic or shock. Your animal will be terrified for quite a period of time and may bite you. Biting from wild animals especially can result in serious infection or blood poisoning even to vaccinated people.
8. Kinkajou aka "Honey Bear"
The Kinkajou is a small, furry, nocturnal creatures in the same family as raccoons. They are native to countries like Australia, Indonesia and Tazmania and typically live in trees using their tails for balance, support and grip. Their names derive from their sweet diet.
These small animals can live for 25 years and require a lot of time, attention and space that most cannot afford to give them. Their natural habitat is in the rainforest so attempting to mimic a similar environment is essential. Whilst many owners will let you believe they are cuddly and friendly all the time - they're not. These animals have been known to bite, scratch and be difficult to handle and tame. They ideally should be bottle fed and hand reared by humans to create a good pet. Is this a good idea? no.
Vets find it very hard to treat them. Even exotic vets are not trained or used to these animals, especially in western countries such as the UK and the US and most of Europe. These animals are not native and although increasing in popularity, they are not a highly popular pet to own. Insurance plans do not cover them meaning you will be out of pocket if you need to treat them and it could cost hundreds-thousands. Unfortunately, these animals are prone to health problems outside of their natural environment. They require a lot of care and in a way are similar to Sugar Gliders with diet. In captivity as pets they are fragile and often suffer horribly due to lack of information and available veterinary treatment. Should vets be better trained, or should we stop keeping them as pets?
Bats have been in the news lately due to that horrible outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. It may seem obvious, but bats can do a lot of harm when they bite. Even fruit bats have sharp teeth and a bite can result in blood poisoning along with a whole host of other diseases.
Bats do not make good pets for very obvious reasons. Wild bats in particular carry rabies, SARS, Salmonella and in some countries, Ebola. Often bats as pets are imported and overbred which only feeds these nasty diseases into them as well as the wild mentality and the associated problems. Inbreeding in captive bats is a problem due to their low numbers as pets. This causes many problems from deformities, disease, genetic disorders, behavioural problems and shortened lifespan.
Vets cannot treat them with any ease. Bats are hard to treat if they become unwell, in captivity, they will become ill often. Vets are not trained in the care of these animals and in some countries they may report you for prosecution just for owning one. Insurance plans will not cover these animals.
10. Poison Dart Frogs
Yes, another potentially dangerous animal that people keep as pets. These frogs are native to central and south America and come in a wide variety of bright colours. As you might expect, they're toxic, but the toxicity of them varies between species. They secrete poisonous fluid called lipophilic alkaloid which allows them to live alongside predators during the day. Few animals have developed immunity to the poison, this does not include humans.
Whilst some scientists use the poison to make painkillers and other medicinal substances, you should not attempt to do this. The poison from the golden frog has enough toxicity to kill 10-20 men or around 10,000 mice. It can be very hard to identify just how much poison the frogs are laced with as it varies among the sub-types and even in individual frogs.
Of course, humans and animals can become seriously ill or die from ingesting or in any way consuming the poison from these frogs. They can cause skin irritations and other serious complications.
Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on May 07, 2017:
I wholeheartedly disagree with not keeping snakes. They can make wonderful pets. It's a matter of doing research so you know what you are doing and being responsible. That includes breeding. Many people I know that call themselves herpers are scientists, educators, wild life conservationists, zoo keepers and citizen scientists. We try to reach out to the community to teach people about snakes so that they realize there's nothing to be scared of and are an essential part of the environment. What I would like to see is more of a formal apprenticeship and licensing system to help weed out the people who would not be responsible or take their limited resources into account. Also to include a get out plan to responsibly rehome or sell their snakes due to disasters such as divorce or ill health. There are plenty of people that shouldn't be pet owners of any animal, including the standard cat or dog, but I think you are highlighting the worst examples. By the way, poison dart frogs bred in captivity are not poisonous. Poison dart frogs harvested from the wild will lose their poison if fed a different diet than what they eat in the wild, like poisonous ants.
Anything can be domesticated, plants or animals. It's just a matter of selective breeding and time. To say to a person: "No you can't have this animal because I don't understand, but you can have this animal because I am familiar with it." is ridiculous.
I know a guy in Florida that keeps venomous snakes as his hobby. Legal, in good condition, with secure enclosures. He knows the local land and the local reptiles like the back of his hand. He's been doing this for 20+ years. He helped capture cottonmouths from different regions for University of Florida researchers. He helped them milk venom at the station they set up in his yard. He makes no money; he does what he does out of sheer passion. Can you tell a guy like this he doesn't know what he's doing and that he shouldn't keep snakes? He understands the risks if he gets bit, has a health plan, and accepts that responsibility. Now their are new people getting into reptiles that have no idea what their doing. That's why I believe in education and outreach, to help people get to that point. Or just have a pet corn snake that is happy and healthy.
I do agree with not breeding teacup Chihuahuas. That's just bad breeding. I wouldn't touch a chimpanzee with a 20 foot stick. But that's my personal preference.
KeviBrown827 on July 07, 2016:
Poison dart frogs get their toxicity from insects they eat in the wild. So in captivity, no toxicity. Even when wild caught, the poison runs out eventually. So a captive poison dart frog is about as toxic as a common bullfrog.
B M Gunn from A Place Outside Of Time And Space...Somehow... on February 16, 2016:
I think that as long as a person can provide the Five Freedoms for the animal they wish to care for, and they make sure it was obtained ethically, AND you make sure that it is not possible for anyone except for yourself to be harmed by the animal, than they should be able to.
-Freedom from hunger and thirst
-Freedom from discomfort
-Freedom from pain, injury, and illness
-Freedom to express natural behaviour
-Freedom from fear and distress
As long as you can adequately provide these freedoms to whatever animal you want, be it a snake, hedgehog, or even monkey, then go right ahead.
The only exception I would make, is for the chimpanzee. Great apes are too smart - having advanced self awareness, a sense of continuity, and limited capacity to reason. For these reasons, chimps are the only species that I would say shouldn't be kept in captivity.
ThePetMaster (author) on April 16, 2015:
Thanks for your insightful comments, Chriswillman and Sharp Points.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who keep these animals as pets thinking in their country the animal poses no threat of attack or disease, this is wrong. There are reasons why these animals can't be bought at a pet shop or often even from a local breeder. They're dangerous, hard to look after, etc. But when we think about the sort of people that keep things such as the wolf-dog hybrid we should consider they may not be the type of person that should have pets to begin with.
Sharp Points from Big Bear Lake, California on April 14, 2015:
Wow, some people are just out of control. Especially with those tiny puppies, that's so messed up. You know anyone who thinks that they can keep a chimp as a pet probably deserves whatever happens to them. Unfortunately, they also hurt others who had nothing to do with it. So freaking sad. Very interesting hub though, good read.
Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on April 13, 2015:
I don't understand what goes through a person's mind when they have either wild animals or animals they clearly shouldn't keep as pets. I didn't think of some of these, but the risk of disease is often overlooked by people. They see a cool, exotic animal and want it as a pet but they're only endangering themselves. Nice hub, very interesting.