“Even the tiniest Poodle or Chihuahua is still a wolf at heart.” -Dorothy Hinshaw

Move over Fido and Tabby, there is a new scalier best friend that humans are wanting. Last article, I talked about the domestication of our four-legged furry friends. This time, I will talk about the rise of the more unusual pets: The Exotics.

Lions, tigers and bears. No way. Although some people get permits to own these animals, these are not the exotics that I am talking about.

Geckos, chinchillas and boas are more in the realm of exotics. Much to the chagrin of the general public of Columbus, we do have some exotics in town.

Birds under 12 inches are no longer considered exotic, as other communities follow this standard. But, a macaw has remained in the group due to its size. This leaves the community of exotics to a handful of snakes, some chinchillas, some hedgehogs and a couple of tortoises. But, I know some people outside of city limits that own raccoons, foxes, skunks and many other strange and unusual animals.

The exotic pet trade is a huge business. Recently, there was an auction in Fremont for exotics. Later this year it will be in Pender and then Madison. Outside of Norfolk, I know of a guy that breeds many different species of snakes. In general, all these exotics are not dangerous, and if you get them at a young age, they will adapt to you but there is still some risk.

Public safety could be jeopardized if the animal happens to escape. The same risks could be said for a person in their home. Ball Pythons, for example, can get up to 6 feet in length. There have been many instances where people have been killed by them. This is why precautions must be taken.

I know what you are thinking. How could a soft furry chinchilla kill its owner? It can’t, but they are very delicate and must be handled as such. Their bones are fragile and can break easily with improper handling.

Hurting people with attacks is only one risk toward humans. The other is disease. Some animals are known to carry herpes or hepatitis. Many reptile species carry salmonella. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that around 90,000 salmonella cases are from exposure to reptiles each year. An animal down south that people like to try to get for pets is an armadillo. These are known carriers of leprosy.

It is perfectly all right to have many different species of exotic animals in the City of Columbus. A permit must be obtained from animal control. This is for not only your safety but also the community’s safety. This is a city ordinance. It does not matter if you have a harmless garter snake or a 12-foot Red Tail boa, you need a permit.

To obtain a permit, one must fill out an application with a $20 processing fee. Then one needs to notify their neighbors with a notification list provided by the city. This is the only hard part, but it is only a 300-foot area around your home. This is normally 20 – 30 homes. The flyer that you hand out just informs them about your pet. They have the right to contact Animal Control about it and learn more. You will have to get a medical check on your animal. Then there is a hearing with the city administrator, chief of police, animal control, and you.

Shawn Flowers is lead officer for Columbus Animal Control.

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