Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
This article presents 10 arguments in favor of exotic pet ownership. In my opinion, it should be legal to keep exotic pets for the following reasons:
- The term "exotic" is completely subjective.
- Exotic animals are not necessarily harder to care for than domestic ones.
- The risk of zoonotic disease spread from exotic pets is misrepresented.
- If they escaped, exotic pets would have the same type of invasive effect on the environment as regular pets would.
- Exotic pet ownership generates niche jobs.
- Exotic pets are mostly only ‘dangerous’ if they are large—just like other animals.
- The black market is already illegal.
- The right to own pets is as fundamental as it gets.
- Exotic pets are just pets.
- There are no good, reasonable arguments against owning them.
1. The term "exotic" is completely subjective.
First of all, "exotic pet" is just a term that means "non-traditional or uncommon pet", and what constitutes such is completely subjective depending on the culture. In other words, for most Americans, all animals that aren't dogs, cats, or common farm animals. This includes some "domesticated" animals. The very fact that most existing arguments against exotic pets do not clarify this reveals that people are not engaging in a rational debate, rather, they are reacting to the presence of animals that make them uncomfortable due to lack of familiarity and their own ignorance.
Exotic pets, like all pets, have different needs, and when one argues that a certain pet is "too hard to for", they are just failing to realize that not all animals are suitable for every owner. Just as most people do not have the room for a horse, doesn't mean they should be banned as pets. The same logic applies to large exotic pets.
2. Exotic animals are not necessarily harder to care for than domestic ones.
Many people place "domesticated" animals in the suitable pet category, and "exotic" or so-called wild animals in the "bad pet" category. But some exotic pets are easier to manage than some domesticated animals—including dogs and cats. Owners of working dogs love to talk about how the average owner can’t handle their border collie, or ‘high-drive’ Belgian Malinois. Caring for feral cats is not unlike owning a wild cat from Africa, yet owning both is legal without question. No one seems to question the ethics of owning these domesticated animals, which could easily suffer if placed with the wrong owner. Improper husbandry is not an issue unique to "exotic pets".
3. The risk of zoonotic disease spread from exotic pets is misrepresented.
Monkey pox, an outbreak originating from imported African rodents in 2003, is the "go-to" example of disease that is often brought up by activists to prove the exotic pet trade can result in a deadly pandemic. Salmonella, prevalent in some reptiles (and to a lesser degree in even dogs and other mammals) is also frequently mentioned. Just like bad husbandry, capacity to spread disease is not an issue unique to exotic pets.
In fact, since traditional pets have far higher numbers, in many cases, they prove to be a bigger disease hazard. When it comes to lethal zoonotic diseases such as rabies, domesticated pets, notably cats, are the most common pet-type animal to contract it and spread it to humans. Unlike animals that actually come from the wild, exotic pets that have been captive-bred scarcely are associated with significant disease outbreaks.
4. If they escaped, exotic pets would have the same type of invasive effect on the environment as regular pets would.
While the always-accepted domesticated pet species are not only what exotic pet owners are urged to acquire instead of their preferred choice, said species are causing the environmental problems that people theorize can occur with exotic pets to an extreme degree…and very few people seem to care or want to do anything about it.
Cats have a widespread invasive presence in the environment, from Maine to California, Hawaii to Alaska. Other prominent invaders are fish and plants that do not come from the pet trade. How many people are passionate about stopping the ornamental horticulture trade? Some exotic pets that happen to be more accepted are causing big problems, although their populations are restricted to small regions within the country.
It is incredibly rare for invasive populations of exotic mammals that have originated from the pet trade to form. The only established populations appear to all be in small parts of Florida. This just again shows that people concerned with exotic pets are biased against something they perceive as unusual, and therefore wrong.
5. Exotic pet ownership generates niche jobs.
Many veterinarians and vet techs specialize in exotic pets. Numerous retail stores fulfill the exotic pet niche. Many individuals begin their animal-related and STEM careers as exotic pet owners and some develop interest in the cause of animal conservation. The exotic pet trade develops job opportunities, strengthens the economy, and shapes lives. It should be accommodated and appreciated just like any other hobby involving the natural world.
6. Exotic pets are mostly only ‘dangerous’ if they are large—just like other animals.
Wild animals aren’t dangerous. If they were, we wouldn’t be able to leave our homes with all those squirrels and deer running around. Some animals are dangerous, of course, it just isn’t an inherent trait of so-called exotic pets or wild animals. There are both dangerous exotic pets and dangerous conventional pets. Tigers, being a powerful cat weighing hundreds of pounds, are dangerous. Believe it or not, your average cat would be just as dangerous if it were the same size, maybe even more.
We need to stop labeling exotic pets as dangerous because it makes no sense and fuels blanket bans for all species, regardless of any valid evidence.
7. The black market is already illegal.
Most species considered to be exotic are not majorly threatened by the pet trade. Most of those that are affected are declining due to habitat destruction. The few exotic pets that are threatened by the pet trade in modern times are collected and sold in their own country, or countries that are not the U.S. Most of these animals are birds and reptiles, which often are more accepted than exotic mammals. Many species have been impacted from unregulated collection in the past and while their populations might have sustained permanent damage, laws were put in place to prevent it from happening in the future.
As the illegal wildlife trade is illegal and being dealt with accordingly and effectively, this is not a strong argument to have blanket bans on all species, rather, each species should be assessed individually.
8. The right to own pets is as fundamental as it gets.
The idea of someone making it illegal to own a dog or cat seems unfathomable. It is irrefutable that the ownership of these species has problems, but no activist would dare try to ban the right to own them. They know they would be laughed out of the room, anyway.
Our culture recognizes the profound need for pets. Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure and increase longevity in humans. Pets may improve mental health for some people. The benefits of pets outweigh the negatives. That special pet that makes a positive difference in one's life might not be a dog. Some people gravitate towards exotic pet species instead of conventional ones (or both) but are denied in most states simply because that species is not popular. Banning someone’s pet deer, fox, or kinkajou is no different from banning someone’s cat, and it causes the same distress.
9. Exotic pets are just pets.
It’s no surprise PETA is against owning exotic pets when they are against owning all pets, zoos, and the use of animal products. But how does hate for owning exotic pets spread to average people who aren’t against barbecues, honey, and ice cream? Most people agree that the substandard conditions in battery farms needs to change; yet just banning the entire industry is not what most consider to be reasonable.
Such people are seething mad at the idea that someone wants to own a certain pet—and whether the pet’s care needs improvement, or if it appears to be pampered—that doesn’t stop them from declaring that exotic pet owners are selfish egomaniacs that need to have their pets taken from them. People need to see and understand that just because a pet happens to be an unusual species doesn't all of the sudden change its moral standing. Exotic pets aren't "special" or unsuitable for captivity, they generally just have different needs that can be met by some people.
10. There are no good, reasonable arguments against owning them.
“Should people be taking these animals out of equatorial habitats so they can be pets? We’re not crazy about that idea.”
-Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski on the subject of allowing sloths and kangaroos as pets in Colorado
Remember, there are millions of people who are "not crazy about" what animal products you use or eat, what you spend your money on or what businesses you patronize, yet I don’t see officials scrambling to regulate such things based on their personal feelings.
I can provide counter arguments all day but when it’s all said and done, it should be my decision if I want to buy a non-endangered animal that is less harmful to the environment than a cat, less or equivalent of a public safety issue than a dog, and has a public health threat status that is only theoretical and unlikely. When it comes to more dangerous pets, people should have the opportunity to acquire the rights to own them if they can demonstrate they have the means to care for it.
When the arguments against exotic pets start to sound like: “I’m just not a fan” or “it seems pretty unethical to me” or “those animals really belong in the wild”, the only reasonable conclusion should be that those species should be legal and this should have never been a debate.
This is especially true if the other arguments against the animal are irrational or just plain dumb, such as concerns that a sloth or a kangaroo might cause invasive diseases, habitat loss (in Colorado!), and parasites, and that indoor pot-bellied pigs might contract rabies, or ferrets might escape into apartment walls. These reasons have all actually been suggested.
It appears that when it comes to exotic pets, people can make up any unfounded fears and ban entire groups of animals based on this alone. They do this with the assumption that the people who want to keep these animals are crazy or insignificant in some way. They are wrong.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: How is a comparison between a tiger and a house cat relevant? A house cat is much larger than a tiger.
Answer: Many banned exotic pets are the same size as domestic house cats or smaller. There is no validity to the idea that all exotic pets are 'dangerous.' All animals can injure people, and the larger the animal, the more 'dangerous.'
Question: Wouldn't it be dangerous to own an exotic/wild animal as a pet?
Answer: That would depend entirely on which animal and how you keep it.
Doug on July 29, 2020:
I had a niger uromastic named simon for 10yrs andfor ur info he hated being free if you put him outside where he knew he was outside when u put him back in his tank u would npt see him for amonth he wouldnt eat orcome out of his cave he loved being owned and he was wild caught nigers dont breed in captivety he loved being held and hand feed some of u no it alls should stuff ot
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 06, 2020:
Jordan: Thanks! Most people would just get angry and double down on their beliefs so I'm glad you have the capacity to change, that is the most important quality to have.
Jordan on June 06, 2020:
Thank you for taking your time by helping me change my view. I will admit that my view on the topic has been changed. I realize that all animals have different needs and you made very good points. I'm not sure if I have enough time to change the take on my essay but, this has really helped. Thanks again and sorry if I came off as offensive in any of my comments. :)
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 06, 2020:
Jordan: I don't know why the link didn't work. Please Google "Sugar Gliders without a Colony". Jordan, there is no one group of animals that has the same exact needs as each other! I don't really understand what you're saying. It's like this:
Dog: Daily walks, playtime, indoor/outdoor housing
Horse: Exercise pen, training, outdoor housing
Wallaby: Exercise pen, enrichment, outdoor housing
Parrot: Indoor or outdoor cage/ bird toys, attention
Raccoon: Outdoor cage, enrichment, training
Clownfish: 10+ gallon tank, aquascaping
Serval: Indoor + outdoor cage, carnivore enrichment
This is grossly simplistic but ALL animals need different things although they essentially need the same things: food, shelter, stimulation, and other basics that are species-dependent. Your dogs and cats need different sources of enrichment but both need enrichment. Horses, chickens, pigs, hamsters, and ferrets all need different things. Ask yourself why you are separating exotic pets?
Exotic pets are just animals not commonly kept as a pets and that INCLUDES so-called domesticated animals like camels, pot-bellied pigs, parrots, even hamsters and rats. And it's all completely arbitrary, of course! Parrots are more common than fennec foxes but both are less common than dogs and cats. Pretty much any animal that isn't a dog, cat, or common farm animal is considered exotic and that is actually pretty dumb and useless. That's why using the word exotic pet without going into specifics is already a compromised and ignorant conversation. Exotic pets have nothing in common other than what I discussed, their basic needs.
Wild animals I believe should be defined as animals raised in the wild. Animals that are human-socialized are usually substantially different from a wild-born animal. Then there are "parent-raised" animals. There's a lot of take into consideration!
People are under the belief that it takes thousands of years to domestic an animal. Genetic changes start occurring in captive animals in as little as 1 generation! This is why many zoos are going to have issues if they want to "re-wild" their stock. Please look up "Effect of captivity on morphology: negligible changes in external morphology mask significant changes in internal morphology". I plan on writing a paper that will look at at least 100 academic scientific references on domestication in depth. Domestication is actually a spectrum and is mostly meaningless when discussing captive animal needs.
Exotic animals cost anywhere from Free to $500,000+. Again, they have nothing in common! I've spent $5000 on a rodent. People can spend what they want, how is that an argument? Some dogs, particularly the unhealthy and deformed ones, cost a ton, and that's without vet bills. I bet those champion racehorses cost a load. What's the point of your statement?
Born Free is another PETA-type organization that is just anti-captivity because that is their religion. They won't go by any facts.
I hope you now see that whatever you have written in your essay is probably compromised by bias against so-called exotic pets. Let me know if you want me to email more information!
Jordan on June 05, 2020:
I will admit I wasn't aware of the situation with PETA and after doing more research I understand that they might not be the best source for information and I will no longer use it in for essay. But I don't understand what you have against Born Free USA? To my understanding, they are a non-profit organization that wants to protect animals from cruelty. Also, the link you gave me did not work.
However, I don't understand why you made the point that " Exotic Pets Are Just Pets" in your article. Exotic animals are different than regular pets. They have different needs, different sizes, and aren't used to living with humans. I recognize that wild animals are different than exotic animals.
Wild animals are mostly thought of as animals that live in your area, while exotic animals are thought of as animals that live in what you would see as exotic based on where you lived and are not commonly pets. However, both of these are not domesticated. They aren't used to living alongside humans. If you believe that taking an animal out of its natural habitat just to have it as a pet, that just doesn't seem right to me.
With your point that most people could supply for an exotic animal. I'd have to disagree. I think this because you'd need the correct bedding, food, bath amount, etc. Not to mention that exotic animals cost about 5,000 to 8,000 dollars. Plus about 500 dollars for bedding and cages. Not to mention the food (depending on the animal) can be costly and hard to find. This can be expensive for the "average person" especially since the average person only makes 3,700 dollars a year.
Again, I'm glad that we can have a discussion without fully going at each other unlike most people on the internet.
Jordan on June 03, 2020:
- “Animal control authorities confiscated a crippled cougar cub from a Buffalo, New York, basement. The animal, kept by a teenager, had been fed a diet deficient in calcium and, as a result, suffered from deformed legs. Hedgehogs, who roll themselves into tight balls, can easily become injured if children try to “uncurl” them or if cats attack them. Sugar gliders are very social animals, and if they are not given enough attention, they may self-mutilate or die from the stress of loneliness.”
Source: Exotic Animals as ‘Pets’ by PETA.
- “ Exotic animals do not make good companions. They require special care, housing, diet, and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. When in the hands of private individuals, animals suffer due to poor care. They also pose safety and health risks to their owners and any person coming into contact with them. Individuals possessing exotic animals often attempt to change the nature of the animal rather than the nature of the care provided. Such tactics include confinement in small, barren enclosures, chaining, beating “into submission,” or even painful mutilations, such as declawing and tooth removal.”
Source: The Dangers of Keeping Exotic Pets by Born Free USA
- “Born Free's database is full of horrible and bizarre events involving exotic pets. On Sunday (Oct. 16), a 4-year-old boy in Texas was mauled by a pet mountain lion kept by his aunt, and hospitalized for his injuries. In September, an 80-year-old man in Ohio was attacked by a 200-pound kangaroo at an exotic animal farm. And in June, a Nebraska man in his 30s was strangled to death by his pet boa constrictor.”
Source: Exotic Pets Are Dangerous to Health By Rachael Rettners
I'm sorry that you got offended by my comment. And for the feelings over facts, I worded it wrongly. I meant to say that you made claims, didn't back them up with solid evidence, ignored other reliable sources and research centers saying keeping exotic animals was dangerous, and then got offended when other people stated their opinions. I will admit however that you are a very good writer, but we just have different opinions.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 02, 2020:
"Jordan", Feelings? Please point out to me where I argue feelings. Where are the inaccuracies? Can you point out ANYTHING other than your capability of condescending to me? Nothing pisses me off more than people who claim to have phantom superior knowledge, but just waste my time criticizing me with zero information. You can send anything you want, I want EVERYTHING. Give me all of your refutations. You better not just run away like a coward.
Jordan on June 02, 2020:
Hey so I hate to break it to you but most people prefer facts over feelings. This isn't the most accurate article, and I understand that everyone ha an opinion. But, sometimes claimed just aren't correct because they can't be backed up by anything. Thank you for taking the time to write this article as it will still be useful to me for school reasons. But next time please state resources, other information, and take in the fact that humans aren't the only ones hurt by exotic animals being pets. If you'd like specific sources I will gladly send them to you.
Lily on May 21, 2020:
This article was really helpful
Elizabeth on March 12, 2020:
Animals are wild and not supposed to live in a house, they are supposed to stay outside. And also how would you fell being torn from your family and never seeing them again because some person wanted you as a pet.
Animal love on March 09, 2020:
I loved this I had to write a paper and it helped
REEEEEEEE on March 06, 2020:
I like all
on March 03, 2020:
i like all
ivory on March 03, 2020:
i do not like the 8th picture.
Liza Rella on February 29, 2020:
I love all
kkkkkk on February 27, 2020:
superman on February 26, 2020:
i think you should own a exotic animal because like humans animals have family and don't deserve to be killed or put into the wild think about it if you had an exotic animal you could learn what it likes to eat and could play with it and even go to me with that crap i have husky so that makes it part wolf and it is so nice you can't say someone is destructive by just how it look and besides if you train them you can live with and they will be nice.
Princessa on February 26, 2020:
THIS IS NOT OK AND ANIMALS SHOULD NOT BE TORN FROM THEIR FAMILY
i love animals on February 26, 2020:
thank you for supporting exotic animals
No pets on February 25, 2020:
And I don’t even have a fish as a pet!
Alex on February 24, 2020:
exotic animals are and should be allowed if the animal is taken care of to the day it is put on this earth to the day it leaves this earth. the bills should be took care of and the animal should have a comfortable home and enough food. if you cant take care a the life of an animal than dont bother buying one because u are just taking a life of an innocent animal.
on February 24, 2020:
that is so messed up
Doc Solammen on February 12, 2020:
Another hippie infringing on the rights of responsible people to own any animal they choose. If you can’t hack an exotic pet, don’t buy one. But your lack of commitment or understanding doesn’t give you the right to infringe upon MY rights.
Jack on February 07, 2020:
I mean its ok to take a animal that dose not live in your area.
Truffle on January 31, 2020:
Its nice to know that the bias against exotic pets in the police department means they will refuse to help us in case of an emergency involving said pet.I for one found this article so very helpful! I own two ferrets. It was iffy at first and I was afraid of having the responsibility. I couldn't be happier with my babies now! yes exotic pets are a challenge but they are so worth it and are definitely pets as far as I'm concerned!
just a saying on January 30, 2020:
do want you want exotic can be bad but so can cats and dogs do what you do you and i do me ^-^
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 14, 2019:
NYPD: I don't live in that horrific city so I wouldn't be calling you anyway. I've been bitten by exotic pets before and my blood is fine. You're obviously extremely ignorant and that is the reason you have your illogical beliefs. What a shame. I'm one of the few black people who stands with the police, but now you have me in 'f_ the po-lice' mode.
NYPD on July 31, 2019:
When you get bit by your exotic "pet" and all the blood in your body starts coagulating don't even bother calling us.
fluffylunasayslies on May 16, 2019:
do not listen to fluffy luna
fluffy luna on February 22, 2019:
Exotic animals are NOT pets
rob on February 11, 2019:
loved the articale
Rico on January 18, 2019:
So it's okay for an animal to be taken from its natural habitat, torn from its family, and placed in the care of someone who lacks the facilities, resources, and experience/knowledge to give it a healthy, fulfilling life? These pet owners can't provide a sufficient diet for their animals, and the latter often end up malnourished with stunted growth. They are kept in tiny pens and literally go insane from the lack of socialization and lack of space. They live out their lives pacing back and forth in a box. As for arguing that there is no difference between a house cat and a big cat other than sheer size, how about ten thousand years of domestication, evolving the house cat to live alongside humans. You don't hear about a small cat killing its owner, but you hear about people being killed by cougars, lions, and tigers, huh? A two-year-old child was killed by her mother's pet python. And you think that's okay? This kind of stuff happens all the time. You should be ashamed to think you have the right to keep one of these animals for your own entertainment while disregarding the endless reasons why it is unacceptable. You are a disgusting, selfish piece of garbage. Although studies on Allee effects are continuing, it has been generally accepted that the Allee effect is intrinsic to the species concerned, which express it naturally at low density. Therefore, human activities cannot create an Allee effect; at most, they can push species into density ranges where their natural Allee effect will be expressed. On the contrary, we show here that humans can induce a purely artificial Allee effect in rare species through the "paradox of value." We call it the anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE). Although familiar to economists, the paradox of value—also called the "water and diamonds paradox" (water has much value in use but none in exchange, while the opposite is true for diamonds)—is absent from ecological theory. [We propose that] an AAE can, in theory, emerge in wildlife-related trade as soon as rarity acquires value. We then identify a number of human activities where an AAE can occur and use examples to illustrate each of them. We all know that exotic pets are rare, or highly unusual, such as a Fennec Fox or a rare bird. What we might be considered an exotic pet in one country, could be perfectly normal in another. I love all kinds of animals, but the big cats scare me. I once watched a documentary of big cats in captivity as pets and watched a father weep because he gave his daughter, his only child, a tiger as a pet. One day, the child's playfulness irritated the cat and it just pawed across her neck and almost decapitated her. The child bled to death on her way to the hospital. As I said, I love pets, but within reason for children. Not enough needs easier information about yes we should have exotic pets but this website is pretty reliable thanks!!! Please approve it :)
.. on November 12, 2018:
So it's okay for an animal to be taken from its natural habitat, torn from its family, and placed in the care of someone who lacks the facilities, resources, and experience/knowledge to give it a healthy, fulfilling life? These pet owners can't provide a sufficient diet for their animals, and the latter often end up malnourished with stunted growth. They are kept in tiny pens and literally go insane from the lack of socialization and lack of space. They live out their lives pacing back and forth in a box. As for arguing that there is no difference between a house cat and a big cat other than sheer size, how about ten thousand years of domestication, evolving the house cat to live alongside humans. You don't hear about a small cat killing its owner, but you hear about people being killed by cougars, lions, and tigers, huh? A two-year-old child was killed by her mother's pet python. And you think that's okay? This kind of stuff happens all the time. You should be ashamed to think you have the right to keep one of these animals for your own entertainment while disregarding the endless reasons why it is unacceptable. You are a disgusting, selfish piece of garbage.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 31, 2018:
Jesus: Can't refute it, so just right some angry insult. Seems legit.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 31, 2018:
jhftyhngtydhg No, not exotic pets but wild animals. Nice try, but you lack the intelligence to have an opinion.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 15, 2018:
Enough people are so that they are protected and any attempt to get them removed is met with extreme resistance. They have more rights than the property owners. Standing up against feral cats is a MINORITY opinion.
Chris on March 13, 2018:
Everyone is NOT okay with feral cats.
bookpaw on March 07, 2018:
me too widow
Widow the wolf on January 29, 2018:
I really like the article
Widow the wolf on January 26, 2018:
I hate people who are just rude as heck and steal pets
pinkwave on January 22, 2018:
Not enough needs easier information about yes we should have exotic pets but this website is pretty reliable thanks!!!
The fox on January 18, 2018:
that is so wrong that dude shouldn't steal that other dudes dog
yoyoyo on February 06, 2017:
Although studies on Allee effects are continuing, it has been generally accepted that the Allee effect is intrinsic to the species concerned, which express it naturally at low density. Therefore, human activities cannot create an Allee effect; at most, they can push species into density ranges where their natural Allee effect will be expressed. On the contrary, we show here that humans can induce a purely artificial Allee effect in rare species through the "paradox of value." We call it the anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE). Although familiar to economists, the paradox of value—also called the "water and diamonds paradox" (water has much value in use but none in exchange, while the opposite is true for diamonds)—is absent from ecological theory. [We propose that] an AAE can, in theory, emerge in wildlife-related trade as soon as rarity acquires value. We then identify a number of human activities where an AAE can occur and use examples to illustrate each of them.
Kaycee on January 26, 2017:
Awesome article! ❤️
ManNewt on January 24, 2017:
Lewandowski deserves to be in a spokesperson for the entire country, not just Colorado.
Btw: Where does his quote end?
craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on January 23, 2017:
We all know that exotic pets are rare, or highly unusual, such as a Fennec Fox or a rare bird. What we might be considered as an exotic pet in one country, could be perfectly normal in another. I love all kinds of animals, but the big cats scare me. I once watched a documentary of big cats in captivity as pets and watched a father weep, because he gave his daughter, his only child, a tiger as a pet. One day, the child's playfulness irritated the cat and it just pawed across her neck and almost decapitated her. The child bled to death on her way to the hospital. As I said, I love pets, but within reason for children.