When I tell people what types and how many animals I have in my care, I am generally met with looks of shock, concern, or bewilderment. The next thing I hear from that person is almost always: "WHY"? Why would I want to keep that many animals? Why would I want to have non-trditional pets like scorpions or snakes? Well, let me tell you. Often times it is not by choice. Sadly, many of our residents are rescued and rehomed animals who had nowhere else to go and who likely would have been euthanized if we had not taken them in.
The other, less frequent, reaction that I sometimes get from people is, "Oh man. You are so lucky. I want to get an __________(ex. alligator, skunk, bobcat, wolf hybrid, etc.)!" And my reaction is always, hands down...no. No you don't. These animals have been rehomed and are in a sanctuary for a reason. They make absolutely terrible pets and/or they require a lot of time/resources/space/education that most people do not have.
When I first moved to the central Pennsylvania area several years ago I quickly realized that there were little-to-no resources for non-traditional pets in the area. Many shelters and rescues were not equipped to take in reptiles, birds, and other exotic animals as these animals often have very special and expensive husbandry/dietary needs. It took me a long time to find a good exotic animal vet in the area for my many personal pets who made the move with me from Florida (by "in the area" I mean a vet that is over an hour drive one way) and most reputable exotic animal or bird rescues were hundreds of miles away. Central Pennsylvania is not an easy place to have exotic animals in a lot of ways, especially if you are in need of rehoming one.
A little background: I have had a deep love for animals since I was a small child. I think I always knew that I would do something in the animal welfare realm. Not only have I kept and rescued exotics for almost two decades, I have also spent most of my life working at a variety of sanctuaries, zoos, and rescues where I have been able to directly engage with species spanning from parrots and primates to tigers and tea cup chihuahuas. In Florida I was able to gain a broad knowledge base in areas such as proper husbandry protocols, dietary needs, enrichment, enclosure designing, monitoring and documenting behavior, animal handling/safety, and administering medical treatment.
Within months of arriving in Pennsylvania I quickly became involved with the local shelter, who was not able to take on animals other than dogs and cats. Before I knew it, I was getting calls and emails from people looking to rehome their snake, bird, or beardie. I got calls from other shelters in the area when someone dropped off an animal that was not something that they could manage. My very first call was a little chinchilla who was left in a small cage in the parking lot of a shelter in the middle of July. Her owner likely could no longer keep her and couldn't find a place to take her so they left her alone in a deserted parking lot in the dead of night.
Don't get me wrong, though. I love our animals. I love rescuing. And I love educating people about animals and responsible pet ownership...I wouldn't have it any other way! I just wish that more people would do extensive research and preparation prior to choosing an exotic animal as a pet. If they did this then maybe we wouldn't get as many calls about rehoming animals as we do.
Some parrots can live to be 80 years old. Some tortoise species can grow to be 150-200 pounds. Certain exotics like primates, small cat species (caracals, servals, etc.), and large monitors can be extremely aggressive once they hit sexual maturity.
You would be shocked at the types of animals people choose to keep in their backyard. These people often have very limited knowledge and no exotic animal experience. I worked at a large cat rescue where most of the tigers, cougars, and leopards came from private owners who purchased cute, fuzzy cubs at 6 weeks old. Sure, they are adorable when they are babies but even hand raising these animals does not trump nature and instinct. These bottlefed kittens eventually grow up to become large, powerful cats who could easily kill a person and who cost thousands of dollars a year to house, feed, and properly care for.
There are quite a few species of animals that can be purchased in the pet trade that I would NEVER recommend people to keep as pets. But they do, and usually it ends in disaster for the person, the animal, or both. It takes a very special person to be able to properly care for and afford exotic animals. I would say that a majority of people who purchase non-traditional pets don't really understand the commitment that these animals require and probably shouldn't own them.
So that is my answer. That is why I have the animals I do in my care. It is because these animals need a home too. It is also because I believe that educating the general public on both the beauty of exotic animals and on responsible pet ownership is extremely important.