Regulate Endangered Pet Ownership in West Virginia

Target: Randy Huffman, Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia

Goal: Protect rare and dangerous species by regulating West Virginia’s exotic pet trade

West Virginia is one of the only remaining states where ownership of all types of exotic pets remain legal and unregulated. A recent effort to crack down on exotic pet ownership was thrown out during the last stage, leaving dangerous and endangered animals allowed to be kept in backyards, garages, basements, and houses.

The exotic animal trade in the United States brings in upwards of $15 million per year, at the expense of rare and impressive animals. The creatures- parrots, snakes, big cats, even bears- are caught from the wild while young, and are smuggled through various borders on their way to America. Upon arrival, they are often kept in cramped, dirty, and unhealthy conditions due to the illegal or unregulated nature of the industry.

Without needed information on keeping exotic animals in captivity, many suffer from inadequate space and nutrition, or are deprived of necessities for natural behavior. This can cause stress and depression in animals, which can pose a danger to themselves, their owners, or even unsuspecting bystanders should they escape.

Owners are often unprepared for the growth of their new young pets, and can be blindsided by the cost to feed, house, and socialize a once-wild animal. A large percentage of exotic imports are abandoned with older age, which poses a danger to the public as well as local species and ecosystems. Non-native species released into the wild can wreak havoc on food supplies for native species, and if a lack of natural predators exists, they can quickly grow into an invasive nuisance.

It is estimated that 90% of exotic animals die after one year of their capture. To endangered and desirable species such as hyacinth macaws and lions, the exotic animal trade is a substantial detriment to the population. Ask West Virginia to regulate the exotic animal trade, banning endangered or dangerous animals from home captivity.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Randy Huffman, Department of Environmental Protection,

West Virginia is one of the last remaining American states with no regulations on exotic pet ownership, and has become a hub for many vendors and owners. Unregulated pet industries allow poor treatment, sale of endangered animals, and introduction of possibly-diseased animals into an urban setting.

Endangered and wild animals such as parrots, reptiles, monkeys, big cats, and even bears or water buffalo are taken from the wild to fund the $15 million exotic pet industry. These animals, after being smuggled out of their native countries, are sold to owners who are often not prepared to meet the long-term needs of their new pets – adequate space, nutrition, companionship, and habitat.

In captivity, their behavior can become erratic due to stress, and they can pose harm to themselves, their owners, the general public, and local species and ecosystems. Many exotic animals can escape, or are intentionally abandoned by their owners, which leads to their death or proliferation as an invasive species.

A staggering 90% of exotic pets are estimated to die within their first year of arriving, and many of these animals are already endangered or near extinct in their native areas. I ask that the state of West Virginia ban the sale and keeping of endangered and dangerous animals.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: mjaysmonk via Flickr Creative Commons

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