Today, April 11th, marks National Pet Day - a day to celebrate the joy and companionship that pets bring into our lives. From dogs and cats to birds and fish, domesticated pets have been known to improve our mental health, reduce stress, and provide a sense of comfort and unconditional love. It has, unfortunately, become quite common for people to adopt wild animals as pets. Whilst keeping wild animals as pets may seem like a fun and exciting idea, but it can have serious consequences for both the animals and their 'owners'. From ethical concerns, welfare to dietary and specialist knowledge issues, there are many reasons why taking and keeping wild animals as pets is a bad idea. So, as we celebrate National Pet Day and appreciate and care for our beloved pets, let's take a moment to discuss and recognise the importance of respecting and protecting wild animals by appreciating them in their natural habitats.
One of the main arguments against keeping wild animals as pets is that it is unethical. Wild animals are not domesticated, which means they have not been bred for centuries to live with humans. Wild animals are not adapted to living in a domestic setting and may suffer from stress, anxiety, and other psychological issues. Additionally, wild animals have complex social lives, and removing them from their natural habitat can lead to social isolation, which can further exacerbate their mental health issues.
Another important issue to consider is the welfare of the animals. Wild animals have specific dietary and environmental needs that cannot be met in a domestic setting. For example, foxes are omnivores, and they need a varied diet that includes both meat and vegetables which can be expensive. Wild rabbits plucked from the wild should not substitute domesticated rabbits. Inadequate or inappropriate care and diets can lead to serious health problems, such as malnutrition, obesity, and digestive issues.
In addition to dietary needs, wild animals also require specialised environments that mimic their natural habitat. Foxes, for example, need plenty of space to run and play, as well as shelter from the elements. Birds need access to fresh air and sunlight, as well as perches and toys that mimic natural branches and foliage for enrichment.
It is important to consider the specialist knowledge required to care for wild animals. These animals have specific needs and behaviours that are not always easy to understand. Some wild animals are highly intelligent and social animals that require plenty of mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behaviours. This can lead to 'owners' disowning and re-releasing their newly adopted pets back to the wild because of the destruction they cause. Re-releasing potentially tame or domesticated wild animals back to the wild can have serious consequences on the animal, especially if they have been in a domestic environment from a baby. These animals will not have the skills or knowledge to find food, shelter or survive in the wild if they have not been taught to do so during rehabilitation.
Wildlife hospitals like Brent Lodge, are often left to pick up the pieces when a wild animal has been kept in captivity for too long. Once the animal is no longer considered cute or fascinating their 'owners' seek professional help to look after them. This also extends to well meaning people trying to care for sick or injured wildlife themselves and not possessing the special knowledge to appropriately treat and rehabilitate these animals back to the wild. Sadly, in some cases animals who are considered too tame must be relocated to live in special sanctuaries because they can not be released and survive on their own in the wild.
Keeping wild animals as pets can be dangerous for both the animals and their owners. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be aggressive if they feel threatened or stressed. In addition to physical harm, wild animals can also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as rabies, salmonella, and avian flu. Quarantine and isolation equipment and facilities may need to be considered.
Finally, it is important to note that keeping wild animals as pets is often illegal. In many cases, it is against the law to keep wild animals as pets without a special license or permit. Even if it is legal in your area, it is important to consider the ethical and welfare concerns before bringing a wild animal into your home.
In conclusion, keeping wild animals as pets is not a good idea. It is unethical, irresponsible, can lead to poor welfare, requires specialised knowledge, and can be dangerous for both the animals and their 'owners'. Instead, it is better to appreciate wild animals from a distance and support conservation efforts to protect them in their natural habitats. If you are interested in caring for animals, consider adopting a domesticated pet, take up bird watching or volunteering at a local animal shelter.
By Asha Park