It is shockingly easy to own exotic animals in the U.S.
The depressing news from Ohio — where the owner of a large and mismanaged personal exotic animal park let the animals loose to be shot by police, then killed himself — has led a number of people, such as me, to wonder, "where do you even get 18 endangered Bengal tigers in this day and age?" Turns out it's easier than you might think.
New Scientist has rounded up info on U.S. exotic animal laws, from their comfortable position outside the U.S. where they can freely be appalled. Some choice factoids:
- There are eight states with no laws against owning exotic animals.
- Other states' laws are wildly inconsistent — for instance, in Arkansas you can't own a lion, but you can own six bobcats, which is probably the same amount of wild cat by volume.
- And states that do have laws don't work very hard to prevent exotic animals being brought across state lines, or to prosecute once they do.
- There have been 75 exotic-animal-related human deaths since 1990. (Ohio police killed two-thirds as many exotic animals in one day, just for the record.)
- In 2004, there were about 5,000 tigers in captivity in the country, and only 5 percent were in accredited zoos.
- That's more tigers than exist in the wild in the entire world.
- In 2008, a Texas woman was arrested for selling tiger cubs in a Walmart parking lot.
- Exotic animal trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry, which makes failure to regulate it all the more upsetting.
Get Grist in your inbox