There are many consequences stemming from private individuals owning exotic animals as pets, but for now, let's look at the results of poor nutrition. Everyone who has ever owned a domestic pet knows that it is important for them to receive a well balanced diet. For many, it's as simple as pouring a cup of dry food into a bowl once a day. However, for exotic animals, like exotic cats, there is so much more that goes into it. A well balanced diet for an exotic feline requires more than just throwing some hamburger meat or chicken into a bowl for them or giving cubs whole milk to drink. Many of our residents know all too well the consequences of getting a poor diet. Receiving an improper diet from any point in their life can lead to osteoporosis, brittle bones causing hairline fractures, dental problems, or as in the case of Simba III, malnutrition and dangerously low body weight.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture seized Simba III from a roadside petting zoo, and he was brought to IEAS by the SPCA of Dallas. When Simba III first arrived at IEAS, he was extremely malnourished and underweight. It's a conservative estimate that Simba was 150 pounds underweight when he arrived. We had to ease him into his new diet which was full of the vitamins and minerals he had been missing all his life. With this nutrient rich diet, and the fact that he was so hungry, we had to alter the way Simba was fed. The Director of IEAS, Richard Gilbreth, became Simba's personal chef as this emaciated tiger began getting six specially prepared one pound meals a day in order to get his digestive tract on-track to accept a more beneficial diet. Once Simba reached his ideal weight, we began feeding him twice a day and eventually just once a day. It took time, but all we were worried about was keeping Simba happy and healthy. He had been physically and emotionally mistreated and had a deep-seeded distrust of humans that has taken years to overcome.
We are happy to say that Simba is now living a quality life at IEAS. He enjoys his spacious habitat with perches, trees, a running pool and numerous enrichment items to play with. Simba also now has trust and security with the entire Staff of IEAS, but nothing can compare to the relationship he has with Richard. He knows Richard was there to rescue him from his deplorable condition and it was he who helped bring him back to health. No other relationship can compare to that with the one who saved your life.
Simba is just one example of an animal who suffered the consequences of exotic pet ownership. Many people aren’t aware of how much it costs to properly care for a large exotic cat. At IEAS it costs roughly $500/MONTH to care for one tiger! That figure includes their nutritional needs, veterinary care, and basic upkeep of their habitat. Many of our residents came from private individuals. Not every privately owned exotic animal suffers as much as Simba did, but they aren’t all so fortunate.