Poster Abstract: Dangerous, wild or exotic animal ownership and its relationship to animal hoarding

Animal Welfare in Veterinary Medical Education and Research

November 8-11, 2009
The Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center at
Michigan State University

Martell JEM
Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

The nature of dangerous, wild or exotic animal ownership has been little examined in conservation or scientific literature. However, it is frequently discussed in mainstream media due to the high profile of many of the incidents surrounding exotic animals as pets, such as large carnivore attacks and escapes, as well as cases of severe abuse. This study examines a sample of 101 media reports and 5 case studies, specifically involving large, dangerous cats, such as tigers, lions and leopards, and compares this type of private ownership to the phenomena of animal hoarding. By referencing the considerable literature now available on animal hoarding and the pathology behind it, this study suggests that the motivations behind owning a dangerous animal, regardless of the number, in situations where it may pose a threat to individuals and the community, and where the owner cannot meet its physical or emotional needs, may be similar to that of an animal hoarder. The study found that the general demographics were largely consistent with those of animal hoarders and that public safety was significantly compromised in nearly 75% of cases. One significant difference was that majority of dangerous, wild cat owners were male. However this appears consistent with what is emerging in psychological literature about the pathology behind animal hoarding. It is the intent of this poster to raise awareness of the phenomena to better inform and guide policy decisions related to exotic and wild animal ownership and improve the welfare of these animals in captivity.