Ear-piercing screams from school-age children chorused to a crescendo last week as an alligator, a boa constrictor, deadly snakes — now venomoids — and more made their reptilian appearance at an elementary school on the west side of our state.
Bring together half a dozen exotic animals — all out of their cages — and there’s bound to be hysteria.
The event promised an entertaining evening — although not so much for the animals — that climaxed with kids standing shoulder to shoulder while cradling an enormous snake. Overeager audience members poked and stroked.
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Admittedly, I was the curmudgeon in the crowd — and this was before the recent headlines — as I reflected on how the desire for exotic animals has increased with visibility, making them appear to be a pet on the same playing field as the family dog. It wouldn’t surprise me if many a child later that night begged their parent for a reptile of their very own. I know I used to plead for a collie.
There was a time when I didn’t think much about exotic pets in people’s homes until I watched The Elephant in the Living Room a documentary that exposes the problems for both man and beast.
From what I learned in the film, there is rarely a happy ending, either for the pet or the owner.
And last Tuesday in Zanesville, Ohio, it was a sad ending for both.
An exotic animal-farm owner committed suicide only after he set free his wild animals on the loose. It brought panic as schools closed, the public stayed indoors and police officers gunned down lions, tigers, bears and more. Overnight, the horrific situation brought the exotic pet problem into the national — and international — spotlight.
Watch the ABC News story Wild Things Next Door: Dangers of Exotic Pets to see why there’s deep concern about the rising number of exotic pets in homes across America. Pythons that strangle innocents, baby-like monkeys that carry life-threatening disease, lion cubs that grow to be aggressive, are animals that belong at home — not yours or mine, but their natural habitat.
If I seem disapproving about a tiger or deadly snake living next door, think about open cages and ear-piercing screams. It's a "dog and pony" show I wouldn't want in my neighborhood.