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Tens of Thousands of Exotic Wild Animals Are Suffering as Captive Pets in Private Homes

When he was rescued by an animal advocate in Michigan and the Born Free team ... as tens of thousands of exotic wild animals are held captive in private homes, roadside zoos and menageries across the United States. It's no surprise, then, that the breeding ...

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In Texas alone, there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild globally.Photo Credit: Karina Bakalyan/Shutterstock Freeman, a 16-year-old long-tailed macaque, is a resident of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in south Texas, one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the United StatesThe name Freeman, bestowed upon him upon his arrival at the 186-acre sanctuary in May 2012, is no coincidenceFor the first 10 years of Freeman's life, the 18-pound monkey, then-called JR, was kept as a pet in Midland, Michigan, imprisoned in a 25-inch-wide cage, which was weighed down with a heavy cement block to prevent his escape.Locked behind bars in a darkened room for a decade, Freeman never saw daylightHe had no exercise and no bathsThis neglected and miserable animal existed on a diet of table scraps and dog food, and was even forced by his owners to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana for their entertainmentsWhen he was rescued by an animal advocate in Michigan and the Born Free team, the few toys and blankets in his cage were covered in almost six inches of feces propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('alternet_content_1'); }); Freeman was once kept as a pet in a private home, where he lived in a tiny, filthy cage(image: Born Free USA)Thanks to a concerned neighbor who convinced his owners to release him to a sanctuary, Freeman is now enjoying life at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in south Texas(image: Born Free USA)Freeman’s story is one of captivity and abuseShamefully, it's not unique, as tens of thousands of exotic wild animals are held captive in private homes, roadside zoos and menageries across the United StatesIt's no surprise, then, that the breeding, sale and trade of exotic animals is a multi-billion-dollar industryNon-human primates like Freeman, with whom we share over 90 percent of DNA, are especially victimized.By their very nature, non-human primates, like other wild animals, require special care, housing, diet and veterinary treatment that are far beyond the financial capabilities and reach of most peopleThey are not suited to captivity at all and should be residing in their wild habitats, where they have evolved over millennia to thriveAdditionally, wild animals are highly unpredictable and often become aggressive as they matureOnce they've served their purpose as cuddly pets or profit-makers, they are often relegated to tiny cages, small backyard pens, and abandoned or even killedA few lucky ones are retired to legitimate sanctuaries to live out their remaining days.Rescued primates roam free at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. (images: Born Free USA)If you don't fine the treatment of these highly sensitive animals appalling, consider the human safety aspectMany wild animals are potential carriers of diseases, such as herpes B-virus, salmonellosis, monkeypox, tuberculosis and many other bacterial diseases which are communicable and potentially fatal to humans propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('alternet_content_2'); }); Primates can carry many of these diseasesAnd all species of macaques, an Old World family of primates, can carry and transmit simian herpes B-virus, which has resulted in multiple deaths in the United StatesFurthermore, every year, human family members, friends, children and strangers are attacked by these pets, who can be highly aggressive due to their constant exposure to humans and their unnatural upbringingDespite people's best attempts to socialize these animals, they can never be truly domesticated and they remain wild and unpredictable.Notwithstanding these clear dangers and opposition to private ownership by respected groups like the Centers for Disease Control, the U.SDepartment of Agriculture, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are no federal laws in place to address this growing problemIn many states, people are allowed to keep wild animals in their homes and backyards without restrictions or with only minimal oversightIn Texas alone, there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild globally.Born Free's investigations into the exotic pet trade, combined with the rise in attacks by wild animals kept as pets, affirm the need for urgent action:  In the absence of federal restrictions, states must pass laws to ensure that the private ownership of exotic animals is prohibited.The breeding, selling and display of exotic animals at roadside zoos and menageries must cease.The public must be educated about the public safety dangers and animal welfare concerns associated with all forms of private exotic animal ownership.Until there is comprehensive and consistent legislation to address these issues, you can make a difference to change the stories of captive exotic animals like Freeman:  Don't buy exotic animals as pets, and become a force in educating your community about the dangers of exotic pets.Speak out or contact authorities if you observe any animal that is abused or living in violation of any lawsFreeman owes his rescue to a concerned neighbor who convinced his owners to release him to our sanctuary.  Don't visit or patronize roadside zoos, menageries or fraudulent sanctuaries, where animals are bred or displayed for profit, and spread the word about these places to discourage others from supporting them.Encourage and support legislation—at all levels—that ban the private ownership of exotic animals. Prashant KKhetan is the chief executive officer and general counsel of Born Free USA, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University School of Law         Share on Facebook Share         Share on Twitter Tweet Report typos and

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