Philly shelter sees surge in exotic pet abandonments
History and Netflix have shown time and time again that no one needs a pet tiger.
According to conservative estimates, tigers kill 40 to 50 people a year in the wild. A story steeped in myth claims that a single tiger in India claimed 436 lives. Fangs and claws aside, feeding, cleaning, and caring for the 200-600 pound cat is nearly impossible for the average person. (Mike Tyson had tigers, he also had money.)
Maybe that’s why someone tried to turn a baby Siberian tiger over to the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) in Philadelphia. This is one of many other types of potential “pets” that don’t have a good idea that have recently been offered to the ACCT.
“You can’t have the right habitat for a Siberian tiger. It’s cruel and a huge security risk. We offered to take it and connect it to a shrine. They seemed excited and then called their friend who had already sold the little one,” ACCT’s Sarah Barnett recently told 6abc news.
Tara Schernecke, acting co-executive director of the ACCT, told The Inquirer on Thursday that in recent months the agency has seen an increase in the number of exotic animals being imported, including many boa constrictor snakes, a small monkey and a Tegu lizard. Barnett said the ACCT doesn’t have much room for exotic species, certainly not for large predators like alligators and tigers. The ACCT can only host Exotics for one or two days.
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Owning certain exotic pets, such as monkeys, wolves, and certain endangered reptiles, is illegal in Pennsylvania. It is technically possible to have a pet tiger or alligator in the state with the proper permits and approvals.
Wally, a semi-famous York County alligator, was recently seen walking through the fountains at LOVE Park. The alligator is a certified emotional support animal for its owner. He was 60 pounds in 2019.
Kathryn Allen, zoological director of Clyde Peeling’s Reptileland in Union County, Pennsylvania, said people often don’t realize how long reptiles live and how much care they need. A pair of alligators at the zoo, Rocky and Adrian, are 34 and 39 years old. Rocky weighs 600 pounds. Both were former pets.
Even boas, she says, can live longer than most dogs.
“My boa weighs 17 pounds and is about 15 years old,” Allen said. “I don’t mind having a frozen rat in my fridge, next to my own food, but a lot of people are not up to it. “
Allen said the Tegu is a large, fearsome lizard with very strong jaws and sharp teeth. Males, when pumped with testosterone, can be aggressive.
“Do most people want a 6 foot lizard that can weigh 15 pounds?” she says.
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Allen said it’s good that Philadelphians are calling the ACCT for advice and not just releasing the animals back into the wild. In Florida, released pets like boas and pythons have changed the ecology and are considered invasive species.
In Pennsylvania, most released reptiles wouldn’t survive the winter, but Barnett said they could ruin your day in the meantime.
“A Burmese python can eat someone’s Chihuahua if they’re loose,” she told 6abc.
For this and many reasons, the ACCT does not put the Exotics they receive up for re-adoption. They do have plenty of rescue dogs available though.