I am writing with regard to the Feb. 8 article, “Payson residents now need permit for exotic animals.”
For the past 17 years I have been taking in sick, injured and orphaned wildlife, and as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), I felt the need to respond.
I don’t dispute any of the facts in the story. I just wanted to make people aware of certain considerations when thinking about being an exotic pet owner.
Perhaps city officials are not aware of the distinction between “exotic” and “wildlife,” but if a permit is issued for animals like raccoons or skunks, the new owner could find himself in a heap of trouble from state and federal wildlife authorities.
Legally, the only wildlife an individual may own without an AZGFD permit are pigeons, starlings, house sparrows and domestic (non-migratory) waterfowl.
Even a wild rabbit can only be kept in captivity for 60 days without a holding permit.
Some of the other animals mentioned in the ordinance (bears, alligators, primates, crocodiles, cayman, raccoons, skunks, foxes, bears, bison, deer, elk, moose, etc.) would not only require permission from the AZGFD, but from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as well. Otherwise, the animals can be confiscated. In that case, if they cannot be placed in proper facilities, they will be destroyed.
While I am pleased that the Payson Police Department Animal Control Division will take responsibility for overseeing exotic pets in our community, I think individuals ought to be aware of their responsibilities.
Unfortunately, I have often seen cases of neglect from “exotic pet owners” and it rarely ends well for the animal. From “pet” squirrels that painfully bleed to death after digesting insulation, to electrocuted cottontails that chewed through household wires, I’ve seen a number of things go wrong. For the most part, people just aren’t aware of proper habitats and how to care for these animals.
It’s also the responsibility of the merchant selling exotic animals to inform customers what to expect long-term. For instance, many people purchasing an African Sulcatta Tortoise do not realize that it can grow to well over 200 pounds and will likely outlive its owner’s grandkids.
In most cases, these animals can only be legally owned for educational outreach or zoo-like facilities.
If anyone wants to learn more about owning them, they can visit www.usda.gov or www.fws.gov/permits.