Pets have a special place in the hearts and minds of many people. They provide a constant companion that makes no judgments based upon a pet owner's outward physical appearance, intellectual capacity, technical skill, or any of the countless other factors that influence one's acceptance by their peers. For many, the close bond established with a childhood pet lingers with them long after the death of a companion animal and offers a ready source of happy memories. But the trend toward keeping exotic animals as pets has endangered the safety of both animals and human beings.
The history of close relationships with domesticated creatures and a recent explosion of the exotic animal trade has led a number of individuals to the misguided conclusion that these wild beasts are relatively harmless, just as are their tamed counterparts. This mistaken assumption, however, neglects the fact that the domestication of a breed requires hundreds, or even thousands of years of focused and sustained efforts. As a result, some people choose to keep exotic animals as pets. That decision can have dire consequences, and in recognition of this threat to public safety, some states have enacted laws to regulate and/or bar the possession of exotic animals.
The need for this kind of legislation is immediately obvious when you consider the danger that these animals can pose to the health of those around them. They may carry viruses and bacteria that can sicken or kill humans who are exposed to these microbiological hazards. Herpes, shigella, Hantavirus, rabies, salmonella, and other threats only represent a small portion of the illnesses that exotic animals may carry. Beyond these immunological risks, an attack can cause irreparable harm. Equipped with the teeth, claws, strength, and speed necessary to hunt or defend in the wild, many animals have the capacity to swiftly kill or inflict grave injuries upon anyone in their path.
In 2007 the state of Iowa passed a new law to more strictly govern the transportation and ownership of exotic animals. Some of the noteworthy elements of the state law include provisions specifying that:
All exotic pets must have an electronic microchip injected for identification
All exotic animals must be registered with the appropriate state authorities
Unless being seen by a veterinarian, the animal has to remain in an enclosure
Vital information, photographs, and proof of insurance must be filed
Breeding is strictly barred, as is importing these animals
Owners must be adults with no animal neglect or abuse convictions
Owners cannot have been convicted of any felony in the 10 years preceding
If You Have Been Attacked
Sadly, these laws cannot guarantee your safety and many individuals choose to flagrantly violate the law.