Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lions, Tigers & Bears, Oh My!

Pop quizz: which geographical area has the most tigers? 

a) India 
b) Texas
c) Oz

Answer: Texas

In India, tigers roam the forests freely, feared and avoided by villagers like the plague. In the Lone Star state where bigger is better, Texans fondly house the big cats and regard them as chic pets. These adorable exotics remain viable until cute little cubs turn into large beasts with big claws, big teeth, and voracious appetites. So sweet. And so dangerous.

With only small pockets of reserves suitable for the wild ones, the exotic pet habit of Americans presents a real problem. Who knew that alligators, snakes, monkeys, elephants, tigers, lions, bears, hyenas, wolves, mountain lions and cougars, to name a few, abound in households across the USA -- numbering in the tens of thousands.

One needs a license for a dog but not for a lion or an alligator or a Burmese python. Obviously, the trade of wild creatures has flourished under the radar, although some states such as Ohio now ban the procurement of exotics -- but only after many shades of tsores.

We look with horror on the business of tearing people from their homes to be used as slaves in foreign lands. But when one sees undercover footage of exotic pet sales in the remote towns of Nowheresville, USA, the scene is not unlike a slave auction. Innocent but potentially deadly creatures have been stolen from their habitats continents away, put in plastic Tupperware containers or cages of all sizes, and sold to all the Toms, Dicks and Harrys who want some excitement in life -- at the expense of the critter, who may not repay its owner with unbounded love.

An entire subculture for the trade and sale of these creatures continues, thus sending a government agency scrambling to solve this untenable problem. If you ever wanted to know how your dollars are being allotted by the government, you can now thank these pet scavengers for contributing to your tax bite.

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