IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ
CURRENT and POTENTIAL OWNERS, please take the time to read this message. This applies to owners of pets, businesses, educational programs, facilities, and organizations.
Recently there have been several incidents regarding exotic animals across all sectors. Because incidents involving exotic animals are rare, especially when compared to other day-to-day activities and incidents involving domestic animals, the media tends to create a frenzy around any minuscule incident, blowing it out of proportion. Unfortunately, Animal Rights groups who oppose ALL use of ALL animals take advantage of these incidents to call our legislators to ban the ownership, breeding, and exhibiting of exotics. Even sanctuaries are being included in these bans. There are already bans in place in about 20 states, and more are introducing bills to ban or severely restrict keeping exotic animals in captivity. Every incident puts the exotic animal community at risk. We need to be PROACTIVE and show our lawmakers that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE and bans are not needed. In the end, the one paying the highest price is the animal when an incident occurs. Our beloved animals count on us to keep them safe and healthy.
Exotic animals do not have a federally approved rabies vaccine like domestic animals do, even though we all know they are effective. In the case of an animal bite or scratch the ONLY way to be 100% positive an animal is not infected with rabies is to test the animal for rabies by KILLING the animal and testing its brain tissue. Quarantine is an option, but government agencies (whose officials are not keen on animal husbandry) rarely opt for this option because they do not want the liability. There has NEVER been a case of a primate infecting a human with rabies in the US, and there has never been a positive result after euthanizing a captive primate after an incident. This does NOT matter to government officials. They will usually follow CDC recommendations to euthanize an animal where there is no approved rabies vaccine. This is ONLY a recommendation, and the CDC leaves the decision up to the state, but this is the route followed in MOST cases.
The ONLY way to prevent this from happening is by keeping exotics AWAY from situations where they may come into unintended contact with the public and cause another incident. As responsible owners we need to be prepared for any situation life may throw at us. NEVER have anyone other than yourself or someone you have PROPERLY trained, have contact with your animals. It is NOT worth risking your animal's LIFE.
IMPORTANT SAFETY GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW
-Build caging so that in the event of your absence any person can care for your animals WITHOUT coming into contact with them.
-Have feeding stations and water changed/refilled from OUTSIDE of the cage.
-Equip caging with lock-out boxes, where the animal can be locked out of its main cage from OUTSIDE so the keeper can enter and clean safely. Again this is to prevent CONTACT with animal by any caretaker other than the owner. Train all keepers, volunteers, and caregivers how to properly use them.
-Equip caging with transfer tunnel so that animal can be transferred from main caging to carrier safely. Lock-out box can double as a transfer cage if guillotine door is put on exterior.
-Keep guillotine door transfer cages on property.
-Maintain an emergency plan in a conspicuous place where all animal safety/restraint equipment can be found as well as emergency contact information for who can care for your animal in your absence, detailed steps to take, and important information for each animal (special dietary needs, allergies, habits, etc.) in case of emergency. Perhaps leaving a trusted neighbor or relative with a copy of your evacuation plan to give to emergency response personnel is a good idea.
-Require those caring for or handling your animals to have their rabies vaccine current. In the event that there is a bite or scratch, there would be a higher chance of quarantine versus euthanasia if the caretaker is current on their rabies vaccine.
-Keep current records for all your animals (veterinary visits, vaccine records, acquisition/purchase documents from USDA breeder, current permits, etc)
-Perimeter fencing or barriers, especially in medium sized and larger animals
-Place SIGNS on caging and around barriers warning visitors NOT TO TOUCH!
-Do NOT allow strangers to touch your animals except for USDA exhibitions where all laws and safety precautions are followed.
-Keep animals under lock and key, and always DOUBLE CHECK enclosure doors/locks to be sure they are secure when leaving cage.
-In the case of large animals which have the potential to severely harm human life if they escape, keep equipment on hand to subdue the animal quickly (dart guns, etc), and train keepers and caregivers how to properly use them.
I know that some of this sounds like it is not needed because your animals will never bite, or it is just overkill because you only have small animals such as squirrel monkeys, fennec foxes, Geoffrey's cats, etc., but we must remember they are ANIMALS. ANY animal with teeth can bite, including dogs, cats etc. The difference between a dog biting and an exotic is that dogs have an APPROVED rabies vaccine so dogs will not be killed, whereas exotics will be KILLED. It does not matter that the bite was minimal. Bites do not require medical attention to require euthanasia. A SCRATCH is all that is needed to require the killing of your animal for rabies testing, even an ACCIDENTAL SCRATCH where the animal showed no aggression! THIS HAS HAPPENED! Following the steps above will ensure the safety of your animals as well as the public.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR EXOTICS AWAY FROM SITUATIONS WHERE THEY CAN COME INTO UNINTENDED CONTACT WITH THE PUBLIC AND CAUSE ANOTHER INCIDENT THAT COULD END OWNERSHIP, OF THESE ANIMALS FOREVER!
Note to those in the US: If you take your animals out in public, you are considered to be an exhibitor and must obtain a USDA Exhibitor's license.