Several people on twitter, in person, and at classes I have taught have told me about their WILD pets. These are pets like snakes, frogs, geckos, rabbits, even coyotes and other animals that were taken from the wild and made into a pet. While it is my opinion that this is very wrong; the truth is that it is ILLEGAL IN EVERY STATE.
These "pet" owners tell me many stories. It looked lonely. My child loves it. My child has always wanted one. It was keep it or kill it. It will get better care and survive longer as a pet. I didn't know it was illegal, I do this all the time. It looked orphaned. You don't know what you are talking about.
Now lets take a look at these comments and break it down to the truth.
Lonely: you have no way of knowing this and many animals are happiest as loners.
Child loves/wants: This is your time to make a difference for our wildlife and educate your child. Take the time to explain that wildlife belongs in the wild. Look at the animal and show your child its special features. Explain why it's important in the wild. If you don't know a lot about the animal get your child excited about wildlife by making it a point to learn about it together. Offer it some water if your worried about its condition. If it truely looks unhealthy or injured show your child that there are experts who are allowed to handle wild animals and who can help them. Local Fish & Game can direct you to these facilities or come out and help depending on the type of animal. When you and your child are done admiring your wild friend put it back where you found it. If you are concerned it is in harms way, a road, near dogs/cats, etc. move it safely back to nature. Explain again to your child that wildlife belongs in the wild. If your child still wants that type of pet, most can be found legally in pet stores and shelters that have been captive bred. Please see the YOU page for questions to ask before getting a new pet.
It was keep it or kill it: Shame on you! Killing wildlife is not legal or moral. Unless you have a hunting permit killing is NOT an option. Making it a pet for this reason is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.
It will get better care/live longer: 99% of the time this is not true. The food you can provide for a wild caught pet is rarely as good or varied as what they can find themselves in the wild. You are denying them the stimulation of obtaining their own food that some wildlife needs to properly digest it and keep their minds happy. Wild caught pets usually lack important nutrients they obtain in the wild. You are also preventing it from breeding and keeping its species going.
Imagine this: Someone plucks you up and places you in a really nice studio apartment. It has everything you need. TV, books, bathroom, toys, and good food is delivered on a regular basis but you don't get to choose it. You never get too hot or cold but you are not in control of your temperature or environment. You are never allowed to leave. You have huge windows and can see the outside world but are not allowed to explore it. You are well cared for but eventually you will tire of it and get bored and lethargic because you remember what it is like to go outside and do what you want. You wouldn't want this forever. Why would you do this to a wild animal?
Now for the last of the common statements. After reading this you do know it is illegal. If you choose to continue taking wild animals for pets ask yourself who are you really doing it for? them? or you?
As far as looking orphaned, most people are surprised at how well small animals survive. If it has fur, feathers, or scales, and some teeth it's usually on its own. If it doesn't yet the mother is usually not far away, hiding from you, waiting to get her baby back. Let nature take care of itself. Even if it's in a weird spot, like a bird on the ground, mother birds can still take care of them there. When humans do not interfere with nature it has a remarkable way of taking care of itself.
"you don't know what you are talking about": I am a zoology student. I am a trained and experienced exotic animal keeper, and rescuer who rehabilitates and releases. I have worked at several facilities who are brought illegal wild pets in by Fish & Game that have been seized from the families who owned them. Everything from snakes, frogs, ferrets, mountain lions, lizards, and more. As a rehabilitator I have been brought birds taken from their mother because the person was afraid their cat might get it, opossums big enough to be on their own, and other babies people assumed were orphaned. Don't ever assume you know about wildlife. Even those of us who consider ourselves trained and educated experts, with permits to handle wildlife do not assume we know the situation. When given a chance we do a lot of observing before we interfere. Nothing makes me sadder than having to rehab and release an animal who should never have been brought to me in the first place.
So You Want A New Pet? Here's The Best Way:
First decide what kind of domestic pet you want.
Look at the YOU page and get the list of questions you should ask about that species. ASK QUESTIONS!
Once you have all the facts. Go to your local shelters and rescues and start there. There are rescues for all animal species: reptile, amphibians, birds, farm animals, dogs, cats, even specif ones for pure breds of these species. NEVER GO TO A BREEDER. By Breeeding or buying from a breeder you are giving a death sentance to animals who were not "designed" for a profit. You can find geckos and other lizards, snakes, frogs, pure breds, anything you could possibly want from a rescue. Take the time and do some research. If you must BUY an animal, such as a bird or a reptile, do so from a reputable source and make sure it was captive bred. Ask for proof, ask questions, be informed. Do Not BUY Dogs or Cats! Do Not Sell them either.
According to the ASPCA over 4 Million Pets are Euthanized Evey Year!
In Los Angeles County over 1000 Iguanas alone are killed every year because the owners did not do their research before purchasing one and were unable to handle the large size they became. People don't realize you can adopt things like reptiles and legal exotic pets. Please Do Some Research. Pet Laws vary by state, county, and even some cities. If you have a pet other than a cat or dog, make sure to do your research before you move.
Lastly, the BEST thing you can do for all animals, Wild and Domestic, is Get Informed, Spread The Word, and Put Animals Needs First!
Love and Enjoy your pets! Rebecca