The Hidden Costs of Exotic Pets

Exotic animals pose serious health risks to human beings. Many of these creatures carry zoonotic diseases, such as herpes B, monkey pox and salmonellosis, all of which can be transmitted to humans. Wild animals can also transmit diseases that are dangerous or even fatal to humans, including rabies, distemper, herpes viruses, salmonella, polio, tuberculosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and bubonic plague. Not only that, but wild animals also harbor parasites such as intestinal worms and protozoa.

The journey of an animal destined for the exotic pet trade is often cruel and deadly. Whether poached in the wild or raised in captivity on a farm, exotic pets are often transported great distances before reaching their final destination. Unfortunately, up to four out of five animals caught in the illegal wildlife trade will die in transit or within a year in captivity. The outbreak of monkeypox that affected dozens of people in the Midwest in 2003 dates back to a Gambian rat in Africa.

The animal had been staying with prairie dogs in the shed of an Illinois animal dealer. Prairie dogs are also known to carry plague and tularemia. The herpes B virus, which is nearly 70 percent fatal to humans, can be transferred from macaques to humans. Human contact with reptiles and other exotic animals causes 70,000 cases of salmonellosis each year.

Parrots can transmit psittacosis, which can be fatal to humans. Under extreme pressure, the call for help from the trapped bird attracts other concerned macaws who, in turn, were trapped and robbed from their homes to be sold in the exotic pet trade. While having a unique and exotic animal may seem exciting and cool, these wild animals suffer throughout the process - from when you bring them home to spending their entire lives in captivity. If you already have an exotic animal and haven't done so yet, seek the advice of a specialized veterinarian to ensure that all their welfare needs are met as much as possible.

The glamorization of exotic pets through pop culture and social media masks cruelty and falsely legitimizes the trade. We encourage you to continue giving your exotic animal the best possible life for as long as you can. The enormous global demand for these and other exotic pets is fueling the illegal capture and trade of millions of birds, mammals and reptiles each year, most of which die when captured or transported. It is suspected that a farm is bleaching otters caught in the wild to supply the market for exotic pets, as well as a chain of interactive cafés for otters in Japan.

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