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The release of the movie ‘We Bought a Zoo’ has prompted the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to caution the public that buying zoo animals for private ownership is not only a dangerous idea, but it is often illegal as well.
Zoos are important institutions in every community where they exist and help in global conservation efforts. Zoo animals deserve and require appropriate care provided by professionals.
“The human-animal bond is a heartwarming thing to witness both in real life and in movies, but the challenges of owning and caring for wild animals makes private ownership of zoo animals dangerous for people and the animals,” explains Dr. Rene Carlson, president of the AVMA. “We want to remind everyone that zoo animals are wild and have very specific needs. Owning and caring for wild animals at home is dangerous not only for you and your family but also for the animals.”
In the movie, based on an autobiography written by Benjamin Mee and starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, John Michael Higgins, the family buys a zoo, but they also employ a veterinarian and trained staff to care for the animals. Without the help of veterinarians and experienced zoo keepers, animal health technicians or other qualified individuals, care of wild animals should not be attempted.
The issue became national news two months ago when the owner of a wildlife reserve in Ohio freed his wild animals before killing himself. Forty-eight animals were killed by the sheriff’s department to protect the public.
The AVMA advises lawmakers across the country to severely restrict or prohibit private ownership of indigenous and non-native wild animals that pose a significant risk to public health, domestic animal health or the ecosystem, as well as those species whose welfare is unacceptably compromised.
The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 81,500 member veterinarians worldwide are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. The year 2011 is being celebrated by veterinarians around the world as Vet2011, the 250th anniversary of the birth of veterinary medicine and education.