Is it ethical to keep a wild animal as a pet if it can not be released into the wild?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by timberwolf89, Oct 12, 2017 at 11:23 AM.

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Is it ok?

  1. Yes

    1 vote(s)
    7.7%
  2. No

    8 vote(s)
    61.5%
  3. Depends

    4 vote(s)
    30.8%
  1. timberwolf89

    timberwolf89

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    I know it is looked down upon to keep wild animals like opossums as pets, but is it ok if the animal can't be released in the wild?

    If not what do you do with it
     
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  3. TheGirlWithTheFernTattoo

    TheGirlWithTheFernTattoo SDN Bronze Donor Bronze Donor

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    If a wild animal cannot function in the wild, in my opinion the most humane thing to do is euthanize. This of course would be done at the discretion of a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator. If I found an injured animal I would immediately bring it there.

    The amount of stress on the animal for the process of "taming" it (to whatever extent you can actually get) is in my opinion not fair to the animal.

    The only exception is for animals that could serve useful in public education. For example an eagle that will never be releasable going to a raptor centre so the public can learn about the birds. Since keeping a possum as a personal pet is not beneficial for public education, would be stressful to that animal, and would pose a potential health risk to you, I would not support it.

    Of course this is all just my opinion though. You could counter me pretty well by bringing up feral cats ;)
     
  4. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    This is highly dependent on the individual animal and life history of the species, and there are a lot of grey areas with this.

    I agree with what fern said in that if you have to work to tame the animal, then it's probably not in the best interest of the animal. However, many animals become tame or at least more amenable to being worked with when they have spent extended periods in captivity (only to be deemed unreleasable for whatever reason). At our clinic, depending on the species, we may contact different places around the country to see if they have space for a non-releasable red tailed hawk, owl, whatever. Birds are typically easier to place than a mammal.

    If you cannot find a place interested in the animal, most reputable rehab places will euthanize since they know it's illegal to send it home with a volunteer (for example).

    I personally have two pets, a rabbit and box turtle, that came from wildlife clinics I was at. Both were far too friendly with people (both possibly dumped pets, it's impossible to know). A little different than trying to take an opossum home, but both are still native wildlife species.
    A decent number of non-releasable eagles who aren't euthanized probably should be (my opinion). It can take years upon years just to get their stress level under control. We've had an eagle for 2ish years now and she still cannot cope with, well, anything. Like, you still can't walk too close to her flight cage. Downside of the government controlling what happens to every single rehabbed eagle.
     
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  5. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    Also, if we're talking about opossums specifically, they don't have the most obvious signs of aggression or stress. Many people think they're content with handling or being around people simply because the most aggression you'll get out of the average opossum is an open mouth. Some won't even fight handling.

    Learn your species, know their normal behavior.
     
  6. SoFloGryffindor

    SoFloGryffindor

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    Honestly, I agree with TheGirlWithTheFernTattoo. If the animal cannot be released, why prolong its suffering and stress by keeping it captive. A wild animal is not a companion animal; and that should be respected. Euthanasia sounds like the option
     
  7. TheGirlWithTheFernTattoo

    TheGirlWithTheFernTattoo SDN Bronze Donor Bronze Donor

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    I personally believe that just because you could tame them into a pet doesn't mean you should. It sets a bad precedent that at least in my area wildlife groups are working very hard against. (Eg that DoDo video with a raccoon that someone rescued and turned into a house pet that became viral) There was a particular incident I am familiar with that led to a social media firestorm and a large loss of community funding, all due to a wild animal being turned into a pet and the public supporting that individual. I'm happy to go more into that in PM but it isn't appropriate for me to disclose the exact scenario here in public. Puppy I know we've had some good debates about this sort of thing in the past so if you want to open up one in PM I would be happy to do so :)

    Turtles and rabbits are both species that are commonly kept as companion animals, and for that I can side with the grey area of them being pets. But animals that are viewed as wild only have no place in a private home, even if they handle it well themselves I do believe it has a negative effect on the value people place on the term "wild".

    I just used eagles since they are a species useful for education and commonly sent to educational facilities. You make a very good point about the welfare of the individual birds, which opens up an opportunity for some lovely debate on which species are appropriate for long-term life in captivity.
     
  8. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    Uh...did you read my post at all?

    I should also add that for my pets, they arrived to the clinic already tame. One was trolling around Walt Disney World where a certain chunk of native species are more or less tame depending on if they set up a home in the parks.
     
  9. Cephal0pod

    Cephal0pod c/o 2020 5+ Year Member

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    I think an important distinction to highlight here is that PP was speaking more along the lines of the animal ending up as an educational programming animal at a reputable wildlife facility or in a zoo vs. a "pet" situation. Those are (in theory) two different kinds of management situations, although they certainly both entail a wild animal being maintained in a human care situation of some sort.
     
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  10. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    And again, it's not whether or not a species is a good candidate for captivity, it's about the individual animal. Over the 10 years of doing this, I've seen some raptors come in and seem genuinely curious about people right off the bat rather than defensive like you'd expect. I've seen animals tame themselves despite your best efforts to prevent it. Sure, there are certain species that, in general, don't acclimate to captivity well (eagles come to mind), yet there are individual captive eagles I know that are showing signs that point to contentment. I've had a red tail (who was eventually successfully released) get so used to treatments that he started hopping on my glove on his own accord when I tried to grab him. "Oh, time for my meds and bandage change!" In general, I think we underestimate the contact some wild animals have already had with humans and how used to people they may already be when they arrive to rehab centers.

    As for a person making the animal into a pet, yeah it can definitely give the general public bad ideas. However, if they go about it legally and the animal receives proper care, what are we complaining about? 'But the animal belongs in the wild!" they cry. Well, vegetarians/vegans may say the same thing about food animals more or less, so there's that. I'd be a hypocrite if I got on my high horse and cast judgement upon people/situations I can only see on viral videos. Branching off of that, there are fox, raccoon, wild cat, etc. breeders who sell to private owners. People own zebra and have them chilling in pastures just like a domestic horse. My neighbor owns emu. All of these animals are viewed as wild somewhere in the world, many of them are not completely tame but have never been wild a day in their life.
     
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  11. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow Skipping the light fandango 5+ Year Member

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    I think it's a gray area no matter how you cut it. I truly think it probably is not a question that can be answered with objectivity AND a definitive conclusion. I mean, it's pretty subjective to discern a wild animal's "quality of life" and whether it is sufficiently impinged to warrant "no life." Just judging pain can be a real PITA in a pet, much less a wild animal.

    I think the most LIKELY answer is that it's going to be case dependent.

    In big generalities, I like PP's answers above. Though I think I'd <personally> err on the side of not euthanizing so long as the pet can be made physically comfortable and kept reasonably active in a reasonably comfortable environment. But I also think it's never wrong to euthanize a wild animal that can't be rehabilitated to the point of successful release.

    I don't think this question is rightfully framed as "yes" or "no" like you've done.
     
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  12. WhtsThFrequency

    WhtsThFrequency 10+ Year Member

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    As an aside, turtles and rabbits are very different. Domesticated rabbit breeds are perfectly fine as companion animals - they are basically stupid cats. Now, non-social animals like turtles and reptiles are most certainly not domesticated at all - and I say this as a snake owner (and as a former rabbit owner as well). My relationship with my snake is one of mutual curiosity; I'm under no impression that he is a companion animal.
     
  13. Trilt

    Trilt love doc + puppy snuggler extraordinaire Gold Donor 7+ Year Member

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    Birds of prey are tamed from the wild for falconry pretty regularly and I don't believe their QoL is bad by any means.

    The answer to questions like this is always going to be "it depends," and huge black and white statements about euth being more or less humane is always going to be met with exceptions to the rule. Our relationships with animals are complicated. It's silly to expect easy answers.
     
  14. that redhead

    that redhead 7+ Year Member

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    Not sure what you mean by "so there's that" - I think we can all agree a wild, non-domesticated species brought in injured is a far cry from a long-domesticated food producing species. I think there are similarities - a lot of beef cattle out on pasture most of their lives are pretty terrified of people, for example - but I'm pretty sure none of us agree with that particular argument as a reason for not eating meat or keeping wild animals as pets. I don't think the physical welfare of an animal is all to consider, as you alluded to in your story about a particular eagle; in a wild animal of a non-domesticated species, I think there is the very real possibility that despite receiving food, water, shelter and medical care, that animal is NOT in a good mental state and may never be.

    Sure. But I'd estimate a huge percentage of wildlife seen through wildlife rehab centers are actually wild and have been every day of their life until that point...
     
  15. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    As in, there's always going to be someone who thinks they can determine whether or not an animal is in a good situation welfare-wise based off of these viral videos we were talking about. If the animal is legally owned, why are people screaming about abuse/the person is horrible/whatever? They say the same bullcrap about food animals, and many of us aren't sitting here questioning their mental state. Sure, they're domesticated, but are they 'happy?'

    Also, an orphaned animal hand raised isn't going to be wild, which is what the main point was given the situation fern talked about. I mean, there are people who think dogs/cats shouldn't be kept as pets either. You can almost always argue both sides of the coin. When an animal shows no signs of distress (feather picking/self mutilation, anorexia, etc.), we can only hope that points to tolerance (at the very least). If the animal is actively seeking out its person, is it really that miserable under their ownership? Hypothetical question, because no one on this planet can possibly know for sure.

    There are some ongoing studies looking at more objective parameters to assess stress in wildlife, but I don't know where those projects stand.
    My turtle is pretty social, but I think he's an outlier. He regularly seeks attention from my cats and actually headbutts them to get them to curl up around him. He also does really seem to know when it's me vs. someone else taking care of him when I'm gone. Whether or not these things happen to be flukes that happen consistently, idk.
     
  16. CalliopeDVM

    CalliopeDVM 5+ Year Member

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    How about the fact it's illegal. At least in most places, it's illegal to keep native wildlife unless you are licensed as a rehabber.
     
  17. WhtsThFrequency

    WhtsThFrequency 10+ Year Member

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    My snake is abnormally social as well (he loves being scratched under the chin for example), but you're right, they're very much outliers.
     
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  18. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    This is actually not very true despite it commonly being said.

    Most state laws only specify bans on animals like native/exotic venomous reptiles, bears, big cats, and large canids or "inherently dangerous" species. A few states have no restrictions at all.. Most other native species (opossums, squirrels, raptors, etc.) aren't covered. A few states specify raccoons as either being illegal or requiring a permit. Actually, relatively few states actually outright say anything about native wildlife species in these laws other than bears/wolves/alligators/big cats. I had to sift through all of these laws a few months ago for a project, fun times.

    You also do not really need a rehabber permit specifically. If a state requires a permit, you can apply for a permit just to own the animal (if required by your state). Most people are given the permit. If you are in a state where you need a permit and don't have one, they likely still wouldn't even confiscate the animal tbh. If it's not posing a threat to the public, getting loose and running around a neighborhood, whatever, no one is going to bother.

    Fun fact, but in Alabama, it's illegal to have a raccoon but completely legal to have a lion (with no permit, might I add).

    Summary of State Laws Relating to Private Possession of Exotic Animals is a decent source, their summary descriptions of the laws for each state are accurate.

    ETA: Also want to mention that nearly any of the wildlife laws can be surpassed with a loophole. Maybe you can't have a raccoon as a pet, but you can harbor a raccoon with the intent to breed it for game/fur or harvest its fur (and with a trapping/fur license) in the state of Illinois. People get clever with this stuff, some people even go as far as hiring lawyers to interpret the laws and find them loopholes so they can get these animals.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017 at 7:30 PM
  19. WildZoo

    WildZoo Illegal in all 50 Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Hmm. Is this absolutely complete? Because I'm fairly certain that there are native wildlife species that are illegal to own here. It was discussed in the exotics clinic at school.

    Maybe that's a county law or something.
     
  20. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    It does say it is just a summary, but you can easily look up more stuff for your individual state to be extra sure.

    Most states don't allow you to possess live deer I've noticed, probably for the TB risk. There's also the stickiness of catching the animal on private vs. public land. Technically, some laws aren't written well enough and catching an animal in your backyard is technically in the clear. As with the case with most animal law, this stuff is clear as mud.

    https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/twra/attachments/Exotic_Animal_Classification.pdf found this for Tennessee specifically. Says you need a permit for a raccoon. It also says you cannot possess hawks/owls/etc. at all, so maybe that's what you were learning about? https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/twra/attachments/Possession_Permit_Application.pdf here however, it says you don't need a permit for native furbearing species, such a raccoons. Loopholes.

    Also more ETA: referring back to Calliope saying that you need to be a licensed rehabber to possess animals...that really only applies to injured/orphaned wildlife. You can honestly possess wildlife pretty easily otherwise.
     
  21. WildZoo

    WildZoo Illegal in all 50 Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Hmm. It was related to a rabbit. Maybe that fell under the orphaned wildlife thing but by the time we were discussing it the rabbit was an adult.
     
  22. that redhead

    that redhead 7+ Year Member

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    I understand that; I was talking about what I assumed the OP was discussing which seemed to be a wild animal that was brought to a wildlife center but was unable to be rehabbed.
     
  23. ziggyandjazzy

    ziggyandjazzy

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    I'm sure this is opening a whole other can of worms, but how do people feel about the purpose domestication of animals that are currently wild? Or breeding domesticated animals with wild animals?

    I just don't understand WHY someone would want to have a wolf dog. Or a pet fox or raccoon. But then again, I don't see anything wrong with other types of pets, so I'm not sure. Thoughts?

    Also, it's interesting eagles were mentioned as animals that can have issues in captivity. I worked at a nature's center with a golden eagle who genuinely liked people and was the calmest raptor we had. I didn't know this was uncommon. But, the barn owl on the other hand... he was intense lol
     
  24. pinkpuppy9

    pinkpuppy9 Illinois c/o 2019 2+ Year Member

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    Domestication occurs over many generations and essentially creates a new species depending on who you ask. I don't know that true domestication of an animal has happened in a while (like in the sense that we domesticated wolves and created the dog kind of thing)? There is a fox population in Russia that has been more or less domesticated for research, though.

    I know a few people who have wolf hybrids and for some people it's almost like a cult. Like, people who join a breed enthusiast group, but x100. There seems to be a certain type of person drawn to wolf hybrids, but that's just my anecdotal/judgy opinion. I don't really know what the draw is either. Some just end up looking like beefy huskies and they are considered 'inherently dangerous' in a lot of states. One of the people I know actually moved out of state so she could get a pair of hybrids. Guess it was really important to her. I understand the draw to own a 'cool' animal, but idk.

    Eagles as a symbol for the US has always been ironic to me. Sure, they look impressive, but they cannot handle a damn thing in many cases. Some can, but they're just notoriously stressy/diva patients. I imagine the facility you have makes a difference too, as well as the reason for why the bird can't be released/how long its been captive. I've never worked with goldens, maybe it's a species difference?
     
  25. ziggyandjazzy

    ziggyandjazzy

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    I've seen foxes mentioned as animals that have been domesticated somewhat recently. But most people claim they are not as tame as domesticated cats or dogs. And yet they couldn't survive in the wild. I honestly have no clue if they are considered domesticated but I thought they were. And I just don't get the draw.

    The golden I worked with was blind and has been in captivity for 30+ years. She is an absolute doll. She only occasionally gets finicky with her food and has to be force fed something like chicken breast. Most of the time she contentedly clucks and goes about her life. The facility was in no way state of the art but kept the animals in good health. For people answering that wild animals should be euthanized if kept as pets, would you say this for an animal that is mentally and physically happy in captivity? Or is it more that you don't want the average person to think owning a wild animal is ok?

    I've thought about it myself, rehabbing birds that could or couldn't be released. I absolutely love corvids. They are easily my favorite family of birds. And I've considered if I would keep, "as a pet", a jay if it couldn't be released (just theoretically really). I'm not sure I have a simple answer. Putting the animal down if it was not releasable but still healthy would be heartbreaking. But I would also hate myself if I kept such an intelligent animal and couldn't keep up with its mental, physical, and emotional needs. I think it comes down to what is best for the animal and that almost always depends on the specific animal, as others have said.
     
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