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Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: Time to speak up
For too long, we have been too quiet regarding what exotic animals are sold as pets in this country.
Time to speak up
For too long, veterinarians and our national organizations have been too quiet regarding what exotic animals are sold as pets in this country. Unfortunately, many of the species sold have little history as domestic pets and complex husbandry requirements, and because of their popularity, they can even become threatened in nature. Many of these animals make poor companions, wind up languishing in less-than-ideal domestic environments, and finally die heartbreakingly in a situation that was doomed from the start. These fad animals quickly go out of style and are forgotten. Sadly, many of them have long life expectancies, and although the children or family members have moved on to new interests, these animals may still have years to live, with all of the same requirements for a decent life.
Veterinarians need to speak out about this. If people take animals into their homes, they are duty bound to care for them and provide them with the best lives they can. These creatures share the same life force we do. For that reason alone, they deserve our care and respect. Every effort must be made to educate ourselves about the animals that we keep so that we understand what they need to prosper. We must help and encourage clients to do all that they can to research the animals they adopt, so the endeavor is rewarding to all involved.
“Respect all life” is not a hollow slogan. It is what we have been charged to do-protect animals and provide a voice to the voiceless. For too long, we have not taken an active role in monitoring what species are being sold. For too long, we have sat silently while animals with little chance for successful lives in captivity were offered to the public. It is time we changed that. We are better than that. Monitor what is being sold in your community. Pay attention to trends of new species that you see being brought to your hospital. Speak out to local, state, and federal agencies about your concerns regarding certain animals, based on your veterinary training and experience. Veterinarians must provide a strong, sensible voice concerning exotic species that are currently available for sale. Government agencies must once again listen to our counsel and come to see us as an animal-health resource.
See you next week, Kev