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Is the Ownership of Exotic Animals Becoming an Issue in Texas?

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Authorities in Mercedes, Texas, seized a number of animals from an area residence in the execution of a search warrant in late March. Among them were a white Bengal tiger, some porcupines, a bobcat, a kinkajou, emus, and llamas, as well as deer. The search warrant was served on the 5-acre home as a result of a narcotics investigation. In advance of their entrance to the property, authorities were made aware that exotic animals were present at the residence and subsequently arranged for game wardens to be in attendance. This, however, wasn’t the first time that the keeping of exotic animals made the headlines in Texas news.

Is the Ownership of Exotic Animals Becoming an Issue in Texas?

Photo: envato elements

In an interview with local press, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Sammy Parks stated that the narcotics investigation in Mercedes was ongoing, however, at that time, there were no charges or arrests made pertaining to the search warrant. In a statement regarding the matter, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) said that game wardens were required to euthanize two of the deer and the bobcat due to the fact that they were being held without permits, illegally. Likewise, where they were obtained was undetermined. Therefore, reintroducing them into the local native species population wouldn’t have been safe.

Is the Ownership of Exotic Animals Becoming an Issue in Texas?

Photo: envato elements

Following the search of the property, special agent Parks said the other animals that were seized were transported to the Austin Zoo, in the Texas Hill Country, for medical evaluation as well as rehabilitation, if required. According to a report by the Statesman, the white Bengal tiger was “in good health,” despite being underweight. Scott Chambers, Austin Zoo’s Director of animal care and veterinary services, said that the weight issue was “to be expected coming from less-than-desirable conditions,” and the tiger was expected to stay at the Austin Zoo permanently.

Is the Ownership of Exotic Animals Becoming an Issue in Texas?

Photo: envato elements

In late April of this year, the Texas Media Group reported on the incident in Mercedes. It was stated that within the state of Texas, “…it’s legal to own exotic wildlife with appropriate permits and licenses…” However, smuggling such creatures into the U.S. was considered illegal. Although the actual numbers were considered unreliable, “…it’s believed that nearly 5,000 tigers are in captivity in the United States; Texas numbers are considered to be 8.5% of the total.” Although it’s legal to own such things as a tiger, with a permit, here in Texas, this latest seizure of the white Bengal tiger and additional exotic animals begs the question as to whether there is a problem here in the Lone Star State. Dating back to 2012, the Humane Society was lobbying lawmakers across the U.S. to tighten the rules for ownership of exotic animals. Although this would ensure those who follow the rules would love and care for their animals accordingly, it wouldn’t necessarily put a dent in the matter of those who own and keep them illegally. It’s a matter that not only speaks to the animal’s rights, but also to the health and safety of those living in the immediate vicinity of the creatures, unaware that such was the case. Tigers in particular are a case for such study, considering Texas holds the second largest population of this species, behind only India. Does the Lone Star State have an issue with exotic animals? Are we falling behind in our efforts to properly care for or maintain them? Lobbying for effective controls will continue, however, incidents such as the Mercedes seizure only serve to highlight the illegal aspects of the matter.