Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A guy and his pet tiger walk into a bar ...
From the “fact is stranger than fiction” file, this story out of the Chicago area isn’t a joke. A Lockport, Ill., man did indeed take his “pet” tiger into a bar where he was promptly arrested and charged with reckless conduct and possession of a dangerous animal.
It is an example of many inhumane behaviors that creates a public safety issue and contributes to an epidemic sweeping the nation: clueless people keeping wild animals as “pets.”
According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, national animal advocacy agency, a tiger can be purchased online or in person for as little as $300.
“There are more tigers kept as pets in the U.S. — between 5,000 to 7,000 — than there are in the wild, where fewer than 4,000 remain,” he said.
There were as many as 100,000 tigers in the early 1900s, Roberts said.
In captivity, most of these animals endure miserable living conditions, locked up in cages in a home or backyard, where they are isolated and unable to express their natural behaviors.
Often, owners extract teeth and claws in an attempt to keep them tame to no avail. Rage will build in a wild animal that isn’t free that will eventually explode, said Roberts.
“They are ticking time bombs and should not be confined as a pet,” he said.
Locally, Summit County has developed a safety plan to deal with problems similar to those that occurred in Zanesville in 2011 when the suicidal Terry Thompson freed 56 of the animals at his exotic animal farm, including Bengal tigers, bears and African lions that were killed by local authorities in what amounted to a big-game hunt.
The incident triggered a debate over the state’s nonexistent laws regulating the operation and ownership of privately owned zoos.
The team, which was formed due to a state-mandate, identified a list of about 200 wild and dangerous animals that are being kept in Summit County. While the majority of the known animals are in zoos, many are owned by private citizens.
Law enforcement officers and first responders will use the collected information in case of an escape, or before they make an emergency visit to a home where the animals are living.
Born Free USA, a recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is leading the campaign to stop illegal international wildlife trade before a tragedy happens by keeping them from being purchased and used as exotic pets, for entertainment and for the fur trade.
To see the types of problems occurring around the country with wild animals, visit Born Free’s online captive wildlife database which includes exotic pet incidents at www.bornfreeusa.org/database/exo_incidents.php.
Some of the police reports include the following:
• A Connecticut mother was arrested earlier this month and had her pet marmoset taken away after it scratched the woman’s 10-year-old daughter. State law prohibits residents from owning primates that weigh more than 50 pounds. The woman was charged with illegal possession of an exotic or dangerous animal. The marmoset was confiscated.
• In February, an 18-inch ball python that went missing from its cage in a residence hall room of University of Missouri was found hiding inside a vacuum cleaner hose three weeks later.
• In January, an employee at a Vermilion car dealership was bitten by a customer’s pet spider monkey when he reached in to pet him. The man in charge of the monkey did not have a permit to own an exotic pet and it was not clear to whom the monkey belonged. The man and his twin brother had previously been arrested for being in possession of stolen gibbons. The spider monkey that bit the dealership employee was euthanized and tested for rabies.
Pardon me for saying what you are all thinking: These people are idiots.
So, here’s the thing. If you know of anyone that is harboring a dangerous animal as a “pet” in his or her home, please do everyone a favor and notify authorities. It isn’t fair to safety forces that could be called to the home and it certainly isn’t fair to the poor animal that has no business being there.
Other animals in the news
Harvey’s Hump Day for Homeless Pets — An event to raise awareness for homeless pets will be held from 6-9 p.m. March 26 at Brubaker’s Pub, 141 Bridgewater Parkway, Stow, to benefit the Humane Society of Greater Akron. Harvey Hump Day drink specials will be available with 10 percent of sales help going to homeless animals at the HSGA. There will be raffles for Brubaker’s gift certificates, T-shirts and a 50/50 drawing.
Animal Law Seminar and Roundtable Discussion — Ohio Voters for Companion Animals is sponsoring a seminar titled: Prosecuting Animal Abuse in Ohio: Recognizing Animal Cruelty and Knowing What to Do About It from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 5 at the Allen County Humane Society, 3606 Elida Road, Lima, OH. Registration fee is $40 and includes lunch and a program booklet. For questions or to register, visit www.ohiovotersforcompanionanimals.com.
Pet Palooza — From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 12 at the Brunswick Library, 3649 Center Road “Our Zoo to You” show and petting, balloon animals, farm animals from Spring Mist Farms, dog training demonstration and therapy dogs and more. For information, event times and registration, visit www.mcdl.info/PetPalooza.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to email@example.com.