Well, this just irritates the hell out of me.
By now, chances are you’ve heard about the Ikea Monkey. If you haven’t, let me summarize the story for you: A seven-month-old rhesus macaque named Darwin was found wandering around the North York Ikea parking lot this weekend, wearing a diaper and a shearling coat.
A monkey, an animal that thrives in tropical climates, wandering around a Toronto parking lot in December. Just let that sink in. It escaped from its crate and managed to get out of its owner’s locked car.
There’s a Toronto bylaw in effect that bans pet monkeys, and little Darwin has been taken to a primate sanctuary outside the city. It turns out that rhesus macaques are carriers of hepatitis B and herpes; I wonder if the owner knew this before she took to letting it shower with her.
There’s been a lot of outcry over Toronto Animal Services taking the monkey away from its owner, claiming that the videos its owners posted to YouTube showed a happy and pampered monkey who was clearly loved and well cared for. I beg to differ. I’m not a veterinarian, nor do I play one on TV, but aren’t monkeys all about chilling with other monkeys and flinging their crap at one another? Dressing a monkey in overalls and keeping him on a leash for a trip to the office hardly seems humane (as of this writing, all this stuff is still on YouTube). And as pet monkeys are illegal in Toronto, where was this animal receiving vet care? Wouldn’t a veterinarian have an obligation to report this sort of thing, if the owner ever brought it in for an exam?
Irresponsible owners of exotic pets only reinforce the notion that all owners of exotic pets are morons who let cobras and polar bears wander the neighborhood at will, maiming the UPS guy and anyone unfortunate enough to have a Filet-o-Fish on their person. Then there’s an outcry calling for the ban on anything more exotic than a teacup poodle, the armchair politicians write barely-coherent rants on newspaper comment sections, and people ask me why I “let” my husband keep a “deadly” animal in our house.
First of all, I don’t “let” my husband do things any more than he “lets” me do things. Second, we have a ball python, one of the most common pet snakes out there. Ball pythons are lessons-on-a-player-piano lazy. Ours is kept in a proper snake vivarium, under lock and key (I will be hammering this point home until people get it: An aquarium is not an appropriate habitat for a snake, and it will escape if you keep it in one. Aquariums are for fish, locking vivariums are for snakes). Like all constrictors, Lucille Ball Python isn’t venomous, and if—God forbid—she escaped and met up with one of our cats, the cat would win in a fight every time (not so with a Burmese python, which balls are often confused with; that’s an animal that shouldn’t be kept as a pet, either). She’s captive-bred, and she came to us as a good eater and used to being handled for short periods, which is all you’re supposed to handle a snake, anyway.
The thing is, we’re not unique in our care for Lucy. For every idiot who keeps a monkey or an alligator, there are a hundred responsible and caring owners who keep legal animals that won’t bite off someone’s face when agitated or eat a chihuahua. We go into exotic pet ownership knowing that these animals can live decades in captivity, sometimes outliving an owner. We know that vets who specialize in exotics are a necessary expense. We acknowledge that some people are deathly afraid of snakes/tarantulas/bearded dragons and respect that. We do our research before bringing an animal into our lives.
Animals are not toys or status symbols. They’re not supposed to be dressed up little clown suits or let loose in “the wild” (note: Brampton is not “the wild”) when you get tired of looking at it or the landlord finds out. There are very good reasons why there are bylaws in effect regarding pet ownership.
All that said, I think lots of us can agree on the foolishness of the Ontario pit bull ban. Given the choice of hanging around with a trained Staffordshire bull terrier and a baby monkey, I’ll take the terrier any day.