From King of the Jungle to Neglected Pet: The Case for Saving North Carolina’s Tigers
Guest Contributor: Sarah Soltis
The exotic pet industry is a multi-billion dollar business that is second only to drugs and weapons on the black market. Millions of animals enter the exotic pet trade every year, many destined to become pets. Among the most desired exotics are tigers, and it is estimated that as many as 7,000 are privately owned in the U.S. In the past few decades, tigers have become such popular pets that approximately twice as many exist as pets in the United States than are left in the wild worldwide. Due to lax state and federal regulations and enforcement, however, it is impossible to determine the precise number of pet tigers in the U.S.
People buy pet tigers for various reasons: they find the animals intriguing, even mystifying, and think they will make exciting pets, and owning exotics has become the latest trend. Because a small cub seems cute and cuddly, owners view tigers as large housecats, not wild animals. Thus, many pet tigers are declawed (like domestic cats) and have their teeth filed down.
Most owners cannot meet tigers’ basic needs. The cats require special care, extensive space, and a particular diet. In the wild, tigers need up to 40 square miles to thrive. As pets, many live in small (5’ by 10’), filthy cages with concrete floors instead of grass, often with other tigers. Additionally, these animals’ nutritional needs are often not met in captivity, causing metabolic and kidney issues, epilepsy, and psychological problems. In one particular case, a tiger was kept in a junkyard and fed cow skulls. As a result of living in this toxic environment, the cat was malnourished and blind.
While many states have taken steps to ensure better lives for exotics, North Carolina lags behind. With the September passing of the Ohio Dangerous Exotic Pets Act, North Carolina remains one of just seven states with no regulations against the private ownership of exotics (the others being Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).
It is clear Ohio has taken the right approach, and North Carolina should follow suit. The abuse and abandonment of exotic animals is unacceptable, and must be abolished. Mistreatment of exotics is happening in our backyards (literally), and it is our responsibility to initiate change. These animals deserve better. We cannot wait any longer to pass regulations
For more additional information on this topic, please consult the following sources:
Tilson, R. “Management and Conservation of Captive Tigers.” 5 Tigers: The Tiger Information Center. n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. http://www.tigerlink.com/husbandry/husman.htm
The Elephant in the Living Room. Dir. Michael Webber, 2010. Film.
Horn, Roy. “U.S. Urged to Regulate ‘Backyard Tigers” CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 31 Oct. 2012.
Tiger image via Shutterstock.