28 July 2012


LAST UPDATED: 08/21/2015
Responsible exotic pet ownership is simple. Don't own one. Read more, after the jump.

Later this year, NBC will debut a new comedy set in an animal hospital called "Animal Practice." Justin Kirk (of Showtime's "Weeds") leads the cast, which also includes a real life Capuchin monkey, Crystal, as the character "Dr. Rizzo."

Crystal has had quite the career. Perhaps best known for "The Hangover II," Crystal has also had memorable roles in the "Night at the Museum" films and in "Dexter," as well as in "George of the Jungle" with Brendan Fraser - her Hollywood debut (1997).

An animal hospital may be a new concept for a sitcom, but "Animal Practice" won't be the network's first sitcom monkey. Remember Marcel, Ross's temperamental pet in "Friends?" Marcel was another memorable little Capuchin.

Sure, these little ones are endlessly fun to watch. But I can't help thinking that this Hollywood spotlight only exacerbates an apparently prevalent problem - yes, even within the United States - of folks making pets of all sorts of wild animals. 

Have a look at the trailer below for "The Elephant in the Living Room," a devastating documentary (2010), which looks at the unintended consequences of the exotic pet trade.

As the film documents, the cuteness of these exotic animals, as portrayed in pop-culture, leads some otherwise decent folks to believe they are capable of caring for these intrinsically wild creatures at home. When they realize they are in over their heads; it usually turns ugly in one form or another... for both the human and the wild animal.

Here's an excerpt from a fantastic Humane Society interview with some folks from the film:
What’s needed to end exotic pet ownership?  
Tim Harrison (Animal Advocate, featured in the film): Education. Do you see any show on TV that says, “There’s a cobra, let’s leave it alone”? No, they grab it by its tail and swing it around. People are bringing these animals into their homes, and they think they’re going to act like the surgically altered, sedated animals they see on the Jay Leno Show. If you bring a large [exotic] animal into your home, you’ve just signed a death warrant—one of you is going to die. 
Mike Webber (Producer): I found it fascinating at the beginning to see these animals in the same way that a lot of the owners have. The problem is, it doesn’t take long for that fascination to start to wear off and to feel wrong and selfish. You think, “That tiger, it’s never going to run, it’s never going to hunt.” I reached a point where I was no longer interested in seeing animals in cages anymore. There’s a disrespect for the animal. Ultimately, we have to be able to change the mindset, so the ideas about animals are different in our society.
I recommend reading the whole interview... and watching the documentary, which is available on Netflix.

I wish NBC good luck with "Animal Practice" this Fall. Perhaps they can use the future success of the show as a platform to educate people about responsible exotic pet ownership... which is to say: not owning one!

And please don't be disturbed by the image above. That's a Costa Rican White Headed Capuchin monkey, which was saved from poachers and rehabilitated (for re-release) at Monkey Park, an animal rescue center near Tamarindo Beach.

UPDATE 08/21/2015 : It never even occurred to me that this was still going on today, with all the awareness out there, until the recent news of the killing of the beloved Lion, Cecil. Enthusiasts are right to lay low, because this type of "sport," in 2015, is revolting. During the Colonial Era and up until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, fine, it was something people did. We can understand that. But, we have video cameras now. Cell phones can take pictures and video! Imagine that. And paint, we've always had paint. Karma will be very specific with those - with today's 21st century bank of knowledge - who hunt the species struggling to survive on this planet.