MIAMI (CBS4) – In South Miami-Dade County, Cheeky the tiger is among two tigers, a bear, a white wolf, a black wolf, a panther and other animals kept at the Everglades Outpost, a conservation facility.
“We’re a wildlife rescue. We take in everything from little baby birds, all the way up to lions, tigers, bears, panthers and wolves,” said Jonny Cobbler, the facility’s manager.
At Everglades Outpost, hearts are heavy in the wake of an exotic animal massacre this week in Zanesville, OH. Police there were forced to shoot and kill dozens of lions and tigers and bears, after their disturbed owner released them from his private compound into the community, and then took his own life.
At Everglades Outpost, most of the animals being cared for came from someone else who couldn’t care for them. Fortunately they were brought to the conservation facility, rather than turned out like the animals in Ohio.
“People get a cute little cub, and then it grows up to be a big bear that requires hundreds of dollars a month to feed, not to mention health care and other overhead,” said Cobbler.
Of the Ohio animal owner, Cobbler said, “I think he was devoted, but I think he got overwhelmed.”
Unlike Florida – where facilities and private owners who keep large exotic animals are licensed and regulated – there are virtually no licensing or regulation requirements in Ohio.
“The animals, it’s always the animals that get hurt in the end,” said Barbara Tansey of Everglades Outpost.
In Palm Beach County in 2004, a white tiger named “Bobo” was shot and killed after it escaped its private owner’s compound.
Even in the most controlled environments, wild animals can run wild.
In 1994, David Marshall, a senior keeper at Metro Zoo (now called Zoo Miami) was mauled to death by a 350 pound tiger named Lucknow.
In 2007, a Bengal tiger escaped her holding facility at the San Francisco Zoo, killing one zoo visitor and injuring two others.
Almost everyone in the zoological and conservation community opposes exotic animals being kept as pets by private owners.
“We do not support non-accredited facilities nor individuals that choose to keep these animals for personal reasons,” said Ron Magill of Zoo Miami.
The result – as witnessed in Ohio this week – can be so un-exotic, so ugly and sad.
In Ohio Thursday, several state lawmakers called for a ban on private ownership of exotic animals.