Orem’s Petco has seen ferrets, sugar gliders, snakes, and hairless rats. The Meadows’ PetSmart in American Fork was been frequented by a baby Nigerian Pygmy goat named Josie. But none of them report seeing a baby white tiger, like the Wesley Chapel, Florida PetSmart saw on Monday. Diamond, A 28-pound, 9-week-old white tiger is a new addition to Dade City’s Wild Things, a nonprofit sanctuary for about 200 animals, including lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and other exotic wildlife. Diamond came with her handler, Kathy Stearns and was being bought her first collar and leash so she “can take her on strolls around the facility, which will help her acclimate to her environment and handlers.” they told Tampa Bay Online.
Most Petcos and PetSmarts allow pets to shop along with their owners, but should you take your exotics out in public to pet friendly stores like these? Is it safe?
Bobcat bites Santa Claus
In 2008 Jonathan Bebbington was playing Santa for photos at “Santa Paws” charity picture fundraiser at Petsmart in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.
“We’ve done some exotic different pets. We’ve had people bring in horses or parrots or snakes, things like that. But I thought a bobcat? Well it’s different.” Bebbington told NBC 40. The cat got unruly and bit Santa, causing the woman to take her pet and run out of the store with out collecting her pictures. Bobcats are not legal pets in New Jersey. Here in Utah, Bobcat, wild and free ranging, is prohibited for collection, importation and possession; but captive-bred, is controlled for importation and possession. So with proper licenses you could legally have a bobcat in this state.
Both Petco and Petsmart in Utah regularly have “Santa Paws” events and Christmas card season is on it’s way. But is taking that bobcat to PetSmart or Petco worth the risk?
When shouldn’t you bring your exotic pet in public?
There are at least 3 reasons to keep your exotic pet home and out of the public eye. If they apply to you and your animal, it is not recommended to take your exotic pet to the store with you.
- Risk of personal injury
- Risk of illness from other animals
- Risk of escape/loss of animal
- If your pet is not legal
Risk of personal injury
As when Santa was bit by a bobcat., sometimes the danger to the public and the legal risks involved are too much. Even in very minor injuries, exotic pets rarely get a fair shake, legally. Most times when an exotic pet scratches or bites someone, the animal is confiscated by animal control, and usually destroyed. Even a generally even tempered animal can be euthanized for a random aberration. Do not risk your dear pet’s life just to let them pick out their own squeaky toy.
Risk of illness from other animals
Do not take your pet out in public if your pet has not had apprpriate immunizations or shots, or if they are not available for your species. Recently a virus called SDA took the lives of rats at local rattery, Timeless Tails Rattery. It is presumed that the virus was caught at a pet store. The rattery is just now coming out of quarantine.
Be careful with the health of your animals in places where other animals are sold or visit with their owners. You may end up taking home more than pet supplies.
Risk of escape or loss of animal
When a pet is not used to being in public they may get nervous around unfamiliar people and smells. While a pet-friendly store is a good place to practice socialization, you also don’t want to be chasing your pet around the store if they get spooked. If your pet can not be on a leash (or in a pouch in the case of sugar gliders or other small animal) some stores will not even allow your pet to visit.
Remember that with exotics, it can be very dangerous for them to become lost if you can’t catch them. The risks involved are in the article Lost Exotics in Utah.
If your pet is not legal
If you own an animal that is is illegal here in Utah, such as a skunk or degu, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it is not wise to take them in public. In general, the author of this column regards responsible exotic animal ownership as legal animal ownership only. However, laws change and what is forbidden one day is legal the next… and visa versa, so if you find yourself possessing an illegal pet or your license to own your pet expires, do not take it in public until you sort out the legalities,