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Response sent to council members. Critique requested.


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Posted by chrisbrewer on February 04, 2003 at 17:53:28:

In Reply to: CA Press: Murrieta's council discuss draft ordinance Tues posted by W von Papineäu on February 01, 2003 at 09:05:13:

Honorable Representatives,

I am curious, is it necessary to add legislation banning certain animals? Has there been a sudden rash of attacks by “dangerous wild animals” that we need to be aware of?
It is my understanding that activist groups, like HSUS and PAWS, heavily support banning wild animal ownership. I appreciate that they do not feel wild animals are properly and adequately housed. I also appreciate that any animal can spread zoonoses to children and immuno-compromised people. I question the Bambi-feel-good sentiment that wild animals belong in the wild and are not meant for regular folk. What I cannot fathom is why someone else needs to dictate this outlook onto me; it seems to go beyond common sense.
Let us cut to the chase, I have always wanted to keep exotics. It is not that I didn’t like kitties, puppies, bunnies, and all of the other fluffy little critters I could buy for under five bucks at the pet store. Something about the intelligence, grace, and splendor of the wild animals just is not be satisfied with yearly trips to zoos, weekly wildlife rehabilitation and shelter visits and watching animal shows every night. An explanation does not do justice to all of the satisfaction I receive watching my “dangerous wild animals” grow up healthy and live long beautiful lives.
To the subject at hand: not all animals are for everyone. There are plenty of people who should not keep cats and dogs; these people are on television all too often, I even rehabilitate animals from these “humans.” For that matter, plenty of pet stores probably should not sell pets either, and this disgusts me. Exactly how is such concern over private ownership possible when some pet stores operate in foul conditions?
Taking care of any animal takes considerable research to provide proper husbandry. Not all exotic animals are difficult to care for. The requirements for cats and dogs can vary greatly between species, and even the tiniest will need more space than the largest python species, which will often lie for days without moving. Strange enough, zookeepers claim captive animals are safer and more comfortable than their wild brethren; they enjoy disease control, no predation, a constant source of food, clean water, all the protection human care provides. Sounds like paradise to me. Apparently it is this safety that reduces the lives of these animals, and equals inadequate care. If this is true, zoos, rehabilitators, and especially circuses are doing the same injustice to these animals that private keepers are.
The CDC warns that keeping exotic reptiles increases risk of salmonellosis, especially for toddlers and immuno-compromised individuals. They reported in 1999 that 3% of the population owns a pet reptile, or about 8.4 million people. The report indicates that about 1% of these people will develop salmonellosis. Daniel Shapiro M.D. writes “For every cute, cuddly (non-human) creature out there, there is something horrible that you can potentially catch from it.” (http://medicine.bu.edu/dshapiro/zoo1.htm) The list on his web page clearly indicates that all animals can make us sick. If disease were the reason to ban ownership of wild animals it would stand to reason that all animal ownership needs to be limited or banned also. The easy solution here is proper sanitation.
If there was an honest desire to form sensible rules for exotic animal ownership, similar to domestic pets and livestock, I would support such action. It has been my experience that most bans or excessively restrictive legislation on animals causes far more problems than in solves; by making good people into criminals, causing placement and disposal problems for owners and authorities, and it also reduces a potential source of revenue while resulting in additional, unnecessary expenses for taxpayers.
When Multnomah County, Oregon banned several animal species people did not want to get into trouble, nor did they want their animals taken and killed, but placement of unwanted banned animals suddenly became very difficult. Most people kept their animals, as response would be on a complaint basis. This is a great way to find out if your neighbors like you. Some confiscated exotics are placed out-of-county, the rest destroyed.
The reptile hobby is the most rapidly growing pet industry, 2-billion dollars in 1999, only aquaria produced more. Exotic groups offer educational presentations for free to organizations such as OMSI, whose Reptile and Amphibian Show is the most popular yearly event and largest revenue weekend. Many hobbyists are also conservationists, assisting biological research groups whenever possible, participating in native plant and species recovery, and garbage clean-ups. Breeders and enthusiasts alike are affected by bans, both in loss of revenue and loss of enjoyment.
Lack of ability to maintain the animal(s) are often the most tragic cases both for the human and the animal. Recall the recent case of Wayne Nichol’s 128 starved, diseased horses. These poor animals cost about $150,000 to care for while awaiting adoption. It stands to reason that setting up laws, similar to those for domestics and livestock, would be in the best interest of both the animals and the owners. It would be my hope this would allow for quick confiscation of animals improperly cared for, and euthanization, if necessary.
Common sense will prevent human disease. Simple hand washing does wonders, pet dishes and cages should stay out of cooking areas. Owner liability for containing their animals is not enforced enough on domestics, but seeing an exotic through a fence seems cause for furor. If the owner is unwilling to control their animal immediately remove it. Hold breeders accountable for unwanted offspring, after all there are 4 to 6 million dogs and cats euthanized annually, and who shoulders the cost of this tragedy?
Statistics do not support a ban on wild animals. The frequency of dog bites is so high, cases are rarely news. Exotic accidents are rare, and incidents are hard to find. There appears to be an expectation of injury from domestic animals and livestock. This “darn, it just happens” attitude simply does not apply to “other” animals, this mind-set in unacceptable. Remove societal biases and pressure from animal rights groups and the foundation to support a ban on any specific animal crumbles. Rather, it seems that all animals are inherently dangerous and deadly.
I urge you to consider more than just the owners affected by these laws. You can take steps to protect the public, protect these animals, and protect the rights of all animal owners. Or you can run people underground; creating a black-market where animals and safety fall through the cracks, where the only government intervention occurs when it is already too late.

Thank-you,

Christina Brewer




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