Why laws prohibiting exotic animals do not work..(from NAPA)
1) As shown by both anti drug laws and laws prohibiting ferrets in CA, people are not stopped by such laws. Such laws have only created a black market for both, as seen by the fact that ferrets are often illegally sold in CA for as much as $800, while in other states, they can be acquired for as low as $60. Some people are willing to pay the higher price then to smuggle them in from other states. There are an estimated 500,000+ ferrets in the state of California.
Again, you confuse the laws with law enforcement. What you are saying here is not that the laws don't work, it's just that they are unevenly, sometimes poorly enforced. There are some states that have strict laws, that strictly enforce them. In those states and areas, there is a high degree of compliance. If California would devote some time and energy to enforcing it's laws, things would change there. However, California is (and has been for the past couple of years) in the worst recession in modern history. Funding for things like animal control have been cut to the bone. There is no enforcement arm to speak of at this time. They have other things to worry about, like healthcare for poor children.
2) Illegal pets have no rights. They are often euthinized when seized by authorities and the owners face jail and heavy fines. Due to the fact that opening a rescue shelter for exotics is near impossible in states where they are illegal and the fact that zoos cannot or will not take them, these animals are often doomed if found.
3) Owners of illegal pets often fear taking them to vets, thus they fail to get proper vet care and vaccinations. The vast majority of vets will not turn owners in, since they know the fate of illegal pets.
No one is forcing these folks to break the law. They choose to do so for their own vanity/greed/stupidity. The animals don't have legal rights, so it's completely on the owners for breaking the law and for what happens afterwards. If these people REALLY cared for their animals, why would they subject them to the risk of illness and death like this. Sounds like they care more for the bragging rights than the actual animals themselves.
4) The very fact a species is illegal often gives rise to misconceptions about the species. Such as wivetales like skunks being born with rabies and weasels sucking blood of infants, both of which have been passed on as 'facts' by state fish & game depts or health depts, with NO scientific proof. Such misinformation often leads to slaughter of these animals in the wild.
This is just wrong. Stories like these predate the laws. I remember both of them from with I was a kid (and that was long before modern animal laws). In the '60s and before, you could legally keep native species as pets. This argument is just silly.
5) Laws against exotics are often used as tools by groups who use this to convince people that these animals are wild. This causes owners to turn exotic pets loose in areas they are not native to and cannot survive in. Turning exotic pets or ANY animals loose into the wild is federally illegal without proper permits for the rehabbing of native species.
Not sure what your argument is here. Non-domestic species, by definition ARE wild animals. They don't have the wild instincts bred out of them and can pose a danger to the owners and others. This is one of the main reasons they are illegal. There is no such thing as a "tame" or "domestic" big cat, bear, wolf (or hybrid), hawk, owl, etc.
Releasing captive bred animals or non-native species into the wild is a whole other class of stupid. There are SO MANY things wrong with releasing animals that I don't have space to list them.
Are you saying that you would allow people who would do these kinds of things the right to own a dangerous animal? If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer people who work with dangerous animals to have a bit of knowledge about them and the environment. This is a great argument why these animals should NOT be owned by the general public!
6) The majority of people who keep illegal pets often are law abiding people who moved from states where they are legal, sometimes not knowing till after they have moved that their beloved pet is prohibited. These people are often subject to blackmail by others, who use the threat of turning them in to force them to do as they wish. If the animal is stolen or abused by others, the owner is unable to even report it for fear of the law.
I don't think you can call them law abiding when they break any law that they find inconvenient. In my experience, most people tend to move to where their animals ARE legal. I don't know of any instances (although I'm sure there are a tiny few) of people moving to places where the animals they are are illegal. This is more than a state issue. Interstate transport of illegal animals is a violation of the Lacey Act. The USFWS has little tolerance of this, and there is a good chance that any animal caught under these circumstances will be euthanized. If you care about your animals (as exotic owners all say they do), why would you move from where they were legal to a place where they could be caught and euthanized? That just doesn't make sense to me. That's why I find it hard to believe when you say "the majority". I'd like to know where your data comes from on this.
7) Over regulation of exotic animals hampers those who gain valuable knowledge about each species, as many breeders and owners learn far more from their animals then a limited number of zoological parks can on their own. Much of the knowledge gained about successful breeding, diet and husbandry on pygmy hedgehogs was gained by breeders, not by zoos. So the private sector does have their place in the world of exotic animal keeping.
There are very, very few species that would fall under this heading. While I agree that there is a place where private ownership can contribute to the knowledge base (the Lubee Foundation is a prime example), I disagree that over regulation is a problem. Any individual is free to add to what we know. If they are dedicated and intelligent, the law is not an obstacle. That doesn't mean you can do it anywhere you want. You may have to relocate, but that's the way with any research facility or industry.
It's the people who CLAIM they are doing research that have problems. Most of these are just scams used to breed animals for resale, or to take in "research money". I know of two big cat "rescues" that breed and sell animals.
8) As the world population increases and natural habitat decreases, captive breeding is our insurance for the future of many animals. There are FAR more endangered species then a scant 2000 zoos worldwide can breed, thus zoos end up with surplus of certain animals who the zoos either don't have room for or the animal has minor defects that the zoos don't want. This can mean anything from fur color that is not correct for the species norm (albinos, mutations) to serious problems such as clef pallet in cheetahs or heart murmurs in Florida panthers. These animals that are not fit for the zoo breeding programs would certainly find life better as a pet or in a private collection then as a stuffed trophy on the wall. These animals often CANNOT be rehabbed into the wild at all.
No, ...this is wrong on a couple of levels. Captive breeding is not our insurance.
First. No private individual could have done what it took to bring in and breed animals like the California Condor, Puerto Rican Parrot or Black-footed Ferret. The requirements of genetic selection on such small populations, the space required, the facilities needed to keep the animals wild and retrain them for release was staggering (both in money and manpower). Then there was the post release monitoring (which is still ongoing), negotiations with landowners and protection of of the reintroduced populations. The only one with pockets that deep was the US government.
Secondly, when you have small populations of animals, you have to keep strict genetic records to prevent inbreeding. Private owners don't do this. In fact, animals like white tigers are the product of inbreeding. Keeping animals with genetic flaws alive and then reintroducing them to the breeding population only weakens the species as a whole. Some of the things you mentioned (like albinism, cleft palates, weak hearts) would have died out immediately in the wild. It's contrary to the purpose you stated (keeping the species alive and well) to allow these defective animals to breed. Additionally, we don't want to interbreed species or sub-species. We strive to keep the wild genetic lines pure. Private owners hybridize Bengal Tigers with Siberian (Amur) Tigers, or even more outlandish things like Tigers with Lions. How do these things help the species? They don't, they help the breeders pocketbook.
(White Tigers are a controversial issue in zoos. While they are pretty, they are literally a waste of space. They're so inbred that they are useless from a genetic point of view. They take up space in zoos that could be held by animals that are much more genetically important in helping preserve the species. Why do zoos keep them? They are popular with the public and they bring in revenue.)
Third. Zoos don't have large numbers of surplus animals. Generally they don't breed animals unless there is already a place for offspring. When I worked in the Zoo, we spent far more time keeping animals from breeding than we did breeding them. For Example: In the US, there are only so many places in zoos that can accommodate tigers. When all of them are full, no zoos are given recommendations to breed. When an animal dies somewhere, then somewhere else a pair of tigers is chosen (based on current genetic representation in the population) to breed. These tigers may or may not be already housed in the same facility. Sometimes one or the other has to move in order to meet it's new, temporary mate.
And Fourth. Keeping animals in captivity isn't going to save species in the long run. Zoos know this. The habitat that is destroyed, is most likely gone forever. The real purpose of Zoos (and here I'm talking about AZA accredited Zoos, not roadside attractions, or Billy Bob's Bear Theater), is education. They teach that animals are wild, they have a right to exist, and that we need to live in such a way that allows some wildness in the world. Zoos teach that these animals are NOT pets, and they shouldn't be treated as such. They don't disallow that some private individuals own and work with these animals, but few of them claim (or treat them) as "pets".
9) The criminal element who might keep illegal exotics, simply do not give a **** if they are legal or not. If they cannot get them from a breeder or broker, they will get them from the black market and from poachers, rather then from existing captive bred populations. Banning the exotics has no more effect on them then banning guns, drugs, explosives or anything else, since they are already willingly breaking the law. In short, only the law abiding citizens care about the laws.
OMG, talk about Old Wives Tales! This is the same argument used by everyone else who doesn't like any particular regulation or law. Just because other people break the law doesn't mean we should give you a free pass to break it, or get rid of the law. How lame. (How about "Big Cats don't kill people, People kill people!LOL)
I don't know where NAPA lives, but in my world, the laws DO have an effect. If they think the laws are better somewhere else, I invite them to go there. (Let me suggest Somalia, I'm sure you can keep any animal you want there).
Sure, we hear about crime, there is no place on Earth you can escape some amount of crime, but it's nowhere near as bad as places where there are NO laws, or in places where the laws are not enforced.
Laws regulating exotics (and the occasional "Ban") do have an effect, and things have gotten enormously better in just the past 20-30 years. Unfortunately, as law enforcement gets better, so do people who break the law. Unless we want to live in a Big Brother Society, we'll never be able to completely eliminate it. There are some people who will always abuse what freedoms they have, that's just the way people are.
NAPA wishes to help in creation of fair legislation regarding exotic animals as pets or in captive breeding programs. There are alternatives to making animals illegal, such as proper education of exotic animal owners in proper care and handling of these species, plus educating the public on them as well.
You can educate the public until you are blue in the face, but the hard reality is that it only works sporadically, if at all. There is plenty of education out there on how to keep cats and dogs. Go in any bookstore and there whole sections full of information. The internet has countless sites dedicated to all aspects of husbandry and training..... And yet, just go to any animal shelter and talk to the staff. See how well all that education is working.
And cats and dogs are much easier to care for many large exotic mammals or birds or reptiles. Nor are they as dangerous, pound for pound, as some large cats or venomous snakes.
Relying on education to keep us (and the animals) safe from the stupid, arrogant people who would own them, is the height of stupidity. No matter how you say it, there are some animals that just shouldn't be owned by private individuals, and there are some individuals who shouldn't own any animal, ...at all.
A blanket legalization of these exotics makes them all accessible to the worst of our society. It's a disservice to the animals, and the people they will harm. You may be a good owner of an anteater. But to assume everyone else can be good owners of things like Tigers, Pumas, Gaboon Vipers and Taipans is just dumb. Animals like these animals kill people every year.