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A story in this week’s Miami New Times is one that has been told many times before in Florida: someone purchases an exotic “pet,” even though they have little if any knowledge of how to properly care for the animal; they soon learn that wild animals do not make good companions, so they begin a desperate search for somewhere to dump the animal. The specifics in the New Times article are as follows.


In early 2010, Miami Beach resident Bryan Hawn decides that he needs a unique pet. “I didn’t want a dog. I wanted something… that would make people’s mouths drop open,” he told the paper. He goes online and discovers that Animal Kingdom Zoo, a private zoo in Bordentown, New Jersey, was selling two baby hyenas for $5,000 each. Before long, the zoo is happily counting their money and Hawn is driving back to Florida with a 6-week-old African spotted hyena.

Less than a year later, the hyena has grown to 100 pounds and is much too big for Hawn’s apartment. So he starts looking for a zoo to take the animal. The only place willing to accept the hyena is the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, a Miami animal exhibitor whose president, Mario Tabraue, has a checkered past as an animal dealer (read here).

The story is sad and entirely predictable. Despite Florida’s captive wildlife regulations, it is far too easy to obtain dangerous, wild animals as “pets.” Disreputable zoos continue to sell animals to anyone with the cash– no questions asked. To truly ensure public safety and animal welfare, a complete ban on the private possession of potentially dangerous, exotic animals must be adopted.

Writing a Letter to the Editor of Miami New Times would be a great way to continue the discussion about the trade in exotic animals. Click here to send a letter.

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