Birds & Exotics

Birds, Exotics & Wild Animals

– Selecting Birds
– Exotic and Wild Animals as Pets
– Canine Hybrids as Pets
– Ferrets

Selecting Birds

More and more people are discovering that caged birds bring color, song or vocalization, and amusement into their lives. Many birds form strong attachments to people and make excellent companions. Birds are often ideal pets for people with allergies to dogs and cats.

Birds are sensitive to sudden temperature changes and many household fumes, can develop life threatening diseases, and need a balanced diet, water, light, suitable caging, and proper sanitation. A bird won’t sing or talk if it is lonely, malnourished, stressed, or confined in too small an area.

Investigate the needs of the bird you are interested in owning. Some birds may require special seeds, fruits, or vegetables, while others need large cages. All birds require social contact.

The cost, care, and time commitment required to keep birds vary as much as individual characteristics such as color, size, personality, and life span. First-time bird owners should avoid the more expensive species. Finches, for example, are relatively easy to care for and may live only five to eight years. Canaries and budgerigars (parakeets) have a life expectancy between five and 15 years and are easy to care for; large parrots may live more than 30 years. Costs increase with traits and rarity. The cost of a male canary, for example, may be twice that of a female because only males sing. Birds of the parrot family are highly social, trainable creatures; however, large species can bite and can be expensive, ranging from $150 for a conure (small parrot) to more than $6,000 for a macaw.

Exotic and Wild Animals as Pets

Exotic animals and wildlife (skunks, chimpanzees, poisonous snakes, raccoons, etc.) do not make good pets. They can be dangerous. It is illegal to buy or keep them in most states. Owning a young, exotic animal can be a passing fancy. As the animal matures, it can become aggressive and probably will be unhappy in captivity. Owners who find that they can no longer keep an exotic pet usually encounter great difficulty in placing their animals in a new home.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes that: a) wild animals are often maintained in captivity as companion animals, for breeding purposes, for research activities, and for exhibition, and b) certain species of wild animals, when maintained under responsible ownership, may constitute no significant hazard to human health, other animal species, the environment, or to the animals themselves.

Certain species, or individual animals of most species, when maintained under irresponsible ownership may, in fact, be a hazard to human health, other animals, and/or the environment.

The AVMA strongly opposes the keeping of wild carnivore species of animals as pets and believes that all commercial traffic of these animals for such purpose should be prohibited.

The AVMA also strongly opposes keeping as pets those reptiles and amphibians that are considered inherently dangerous to humans and believes that all commercial traffic of these animals for such purposes should be prohibited.

People acquire wild animals as pets because they like to possess unusual pets or regard them as status symbols.

Problems associated with wild animals include disease, diet, exercise, housing and traumatic injury.

Wild animals kept as pets are frequently subjected to various surgical procedures for the sole purpose of making the animal more sociably acceptable to its owner.

Disposing of a wild animal can be a traumatic experience for both the animal and its owner. Frequently, legitimate zoos will not accept them and they are “too domesticated” to return to the wild; therefore, euthanasia may be the only alternative.

Canine Hybrids As Pets

The AVMA recognizes that: a) wild canines crossbred with domestic animals (canine hybrids) are often maintained in captivity as companion animals, for breeding purposes, for research activities, and for exhibition; b) depending on the management and disposition of canine hybrids, they may constitute a significant hazard to human health, other animal species, the environment, or themselves; and c) there is much controversy with regard to the amount of genetic diversity between some wild and domestic canines and the suitability of canine hybrids as companion animals.

The AVMA strongly opposes keeping as pets any hybrids of wild canines crossbred with domestic animals. The AVMA believes that all commercial traffic of these animals for such purposes should be prohibited.

Persons who own or are contemplating owning canine hybrids should be aware of the following:

  1. Laws in their state or community that may prohibit canine hybrids or require a permit for their presence.
  2. The existence of strong evidence from experts in animal behavior, animal control, animal welfare, and public health that canine hybrids can exhibit unpredictable behavior and pose a significant threat of severe attacks on humans.
  3. Public health officials may require euthanasia of canine hybrids after they bite a person or are exposed to a rabid animal, regardless of their rabies vaccination status, because presently there is no rabies vaccine licensed for canine hybrids and little scientific data on the pathogenesis of rabies in these animals.
  4. The need for special nutrition and housing, including secure fencing to prevent both escape and direct contact with humans and other animals.
  5. Owners or keepers of canine hybrids may be at increased risk for liability.
  6. The importance of establishing a good relationship with a veterinarian who has some knowledge of canine hybrids and is willing to provide appropriate health care through treatment and preventive medicine.

Recognizing that some states allow canine hybrids to be owned, the AVMA encourages the development and licensure of drugs and biologics that can be used on such animals.


The AVMA recognizes that ferrets (mustela putorius furo) are being kept as pets and for research purposes. In those states or areas where ferret ownership is legal, the AVMA recommends:

  1. Responsible ferret ownership: This includes knowledge pertaining to ferret husbandry (care, nutrition, housing, and the species’ habits). It is also recommended that no ferret be left unattended with any individual incapable of removing himself or herself from the ferret.
  2. Proper veterinary care by a veterinarian legally authorized to practice veterinary medicine. This includes preventive medicine and, when needed, medical or surgical care including spaying, castration, and descenting.

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