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Born To Be Wild
There is perhaps one moment in almost everyone's life when they
come across a baby raccoon, squirrel, or even deer fawn, which
seems to be helpless and alone. We tend to think that the only way
these cute little animals will survive is with our tender loving
care. Other times, our culture considers it trendy to own a wild
animal as a pet. What people often do not realize is that taking in
wildlife animals as pets will actually hinder and hurt them more
than it will help.
Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, veterinary clinical associate professor
at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, strongly discourages the practice of
capturing wildlife as pets.
"Wildlife animals are defined as native, non-domestic animals,
and they are protected by the state of Texas," said Dr.
Blue-McLendon . "Anyone wanting to capture one of these creatures
must have a permit."
Contrary to what may be believed, these permits are not easily
obtained. In order to obtain a permit one must be an animal
rehabilitator, or be using the animal for some sort of educational
purpose. Even then, those who have permits do not usually intend to
keep the animal for the rest of its life.
There are several major health concerns associated with having
wildlife animals as pets. The biggest concern, according to Dr.
Blue-McLendon, is rabies. Rabies is most prevalent in raccoons,
skunks and foxes.
"The animals can harbor the disease for weeks without showing
signs," said Blue-McLendon, "yet they are can still spread the
disease to the humans holding them captive. There is no vaccine
against rabies that is approved for use in wildlife."
Therefore, it is impossible to prevent a wildlife animal from
either getting the disease or passing it on to humans. Another
concern is improper food and housing provided to the animals while
in human captivity. They may not be getting certain nutrients they
need nor live in an environmental setting that is appropriate for
healthy growth Even though baby wild animals may at first seem to
be quite fine in a domestic environment, do not be fooled.
"When they are young, some seem to adapt, " noted Blue-McLendon.
"But as they get older and hit puberty they become aggressive and
bite, inflicting serious wounds in humans. They do not make good
She also said that some wild animals can be tamed, or so it
seems. In reality, some may be seemingly tame until some type of
stress occurs, causing them to regress to their wild instincts.
"A wild baby animal found helpless in the woods by young
children may be an intriguing and sometimes trendy option to have
as a pet," added Blue-McLendon, "but be advised that the best type
of pet for a young child is a small pocket pet, such as a hamster,
mouse, gerbil or anything that is adapted to a cage-type
Wild animals grow up and often become too great of a burden for
any unskilled person to handle. The majority of animals who have
been captured are handicapped by human care, and therefore unable
to function in their natural habitat. Sadly, many people cannot
control their once helpless little pet, and end up turning them
loose only to die in a habitat they would have thrived in, if left
About Pet Talk
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& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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Angela G. Clendenin
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