are animal handlers bad examples?

An animal activist on the radio this morning talked about his adventures in rescuing exotic animals from private owners who become overwhelmed by the animal, sometimes resulting in neglect or mistreatment.  It seems incredible that there are still people who want to own large cats, even after Siegfried or Roy (I forget which one) was mauled by a tiger after years of intensive training and trust between them.  If they can be harmed by one of their highly-disciplined predators, obviously it is not a good idea for amateurs to keep them.

So, the radio interviewer asked, why do people still buy them?  The activist said that  as people watch wildlife experts handle animals, whether on TV or at sanctuaries, they become enamored with the animals and downplay the danger.  He noted that after visiting a zoo, children are much more likely to answer “yes” when asked if they wanted a tiger.  One would hope that this naivete would change as people grow up, but perhaps not.

So, for those of us who do educational programs on animals, I think it is important to remind people that wild animals are not suitable pets.  I think it needs to be clearly stated that it takes a lot of training to properly handle an animal, and it takes teams of people to keep them properly fed, cleaned, and stimulated.

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