The private ownership of exotic animals represents a real danger to families, neighbors, communities, and the public at large, as well as to the animal themselves.
In many states, people are allowed to keep exotic animals in their homes and backyards, as well as collect them to display at roadside zoos and menageries without any restrictions or with only minimal oversight. The exotic animal industry is well aware of the dangers these animals pose to the public, yet continues to lobby for private exotic animal ownership.
Given the serious problems involved with the private ownership of exotic animals, it is critical that states address this issue and work towards passing strong legislation. Laws must be passed to prohibit the ownership of exotic animals as "pets" and at roadside zoos and menageries.
Currently, state laws addressing the keeping of exotic animals are inconsistent with each other — varying from type of restriction to the type of species being regulated. Strong and comprehensive laws must be introduced and passed in all the states that currently do not prohibit private ownership of exotic animals. Further, the laws that are currently in existence must at the very least prohibit ownership of the most dangerous exotic animals, such as wild felines, wolves, bears, nonhuman primates, and dangerous reptiles.
Another critical issue that needs to be addressed is that in cities and states that do have bans, partial bans, or permitting and licensing requirements, individuals often sidestep the law by obtaining a USDA license. These individuals claim to be animal exhibitors or breeders, thereby circumventing state exotic "pet" laws. State and local laws on the possession of exotic "pets" usually exempt people who hold a USDA license from the provisions of the law. This is a huge loophole that is being exploited to the detriment of the public and the animals. USDA-licensed facilities must not be exempted from coverage of legislation.
Born Free USA is a leader in the campaign to end the private ownership of exotic animals and is committed to continuing its efforts until exotic animals are protected nationwide. We have worked with state and local legislatures across the country and have played a major role in efforts to prohibit the private possession of exotic animals. We have model legislation that we tailor to each state and expertise and experience that have been utilized by states nationwide.