Last night, at the recommendation of our friend Whitney Buckner, we watched “The Elephant in the Living Room.”
The exotic pet industry is a $20.5 billion industry in America.
I found it at the library, and I knew it would be good, because Whitney doesn’t recommend bad movies. But I didn’t know it would be this good, and shake us so hard.
15,000 exotic cats (tigers, lions, cougars, etc.) are kept in American homes.
The movie follows Tim Harrison, a public safety officer and exotic animal expert in Ohio, and Terry Brumfield, an average citizen of Ohio, and who was also the owner of six lions.
In Texas, there are more tigers living in captivity (3,400) than living in the wild in all of India (1,400).
Over and over, I wanted to think that the things the movie was showing weren’t real. That the statistics were made up and crazy and unrealistic. That the lion running loose, attacking cars on the highway was staged. That the people were just actors.
In most states, dogs and cats must be licensed and registered. Lions and tigers and monkeys and more? Not so much. Six states do not ban or restrict exotic wild animals at all. To find out about your state, click here.
But it’s real. I’ve been doing some research this morning, and figuring out that it’s 100% true. Your neighbor very well could be harboring a primate or a bear or a crocodile, and you’ll never know unless it escapes, or they get tired of it/scared of it/can’t afford it and release it.
Two days ago, a monkey that escaped from a home in Miami was spotted by passerbys. Police and wildlife officers responded, but could not capture it.
My emotions throughout the movie ranged from anger to disgust to joy to frustration to disbelief.
Tigers are 360 to 720 more likely to be involved in a fatal attack on humans than dogs are. 66 children have lost limbs, suffered paralysis, left permanently blind, or experienced other injuries from exotic big cats since 1990.
I adore going to the zoo and petting dogs and watching videos of pandas on YouTube (read: I love animals). I have often tell friends and family that all animals are friendly and while I still believe it at some level, I most certainly do not agree with keeping exotic animals as pets.
In the past 20 years, over 80 people have been killed by exotic animals in the U.S.
Elephants, komodo dragons, mountain lions, you name it: they belong in the wild. Not in your (or anyone else’s) house.
Within the past week, a variety of seemingly absurd exotic animal incidents have been reported. A java macque (a type of monkey from southeast Asia) bit a six-year-old boy in St. Louis, a kangaroo that had been on the run was captured in Florida, a python being kept in a family’s car in Michigan went missing while they ate at KFC, a 7-foot alligator was confiscated in Ohio after being kept in a plastic box for 15 years, and the aforementioned monkey in Miami is still on the loose. Read about more exotic animal incidents here.
If you don’t believe all this, watch the movie and do your own research. If you don’t like documentaries, you will like this movie. If you do like documentaries, you will like this movie. That being said, I think that everyone should watch this. Find it on Netflix, rent it at the library like we did, or buy it off of Amazon. Read more about it in this excellent article. Whatever you do, watch it and do something about it.