AWI Quarterly

Playing Russian Roulette With Wildlife Imports The Winner Gets Monkeypox?

Prairie dogs belong on a prairie. It is suspected that captive prairie dogs for sale as pets led to the recent outbreak of monkeypox. USFWS

Jeffrey Doth of International Exotic Wildlife in Houston, Texas is in trouble again. In April, Doth shipped approximately 800 small mammals of nine different species from Ghana to the United States. A number of these animals were carriers of monkeypox.

Follow the trail…. According to the analysis of Dr. Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control and others, Gambian giant rats were imported legally from Ghana to Texas and then sold to a distributor in Iowa who, in turn, sold them to a distributor in Chicago (Phil's Pocket Pets of Villa Park). There, the Gambian giant rats were housed with prairie dogs and apparently transmitted the disease to them. These prairie dogs were ultimately sold as pets. The disease spread could be enormously vast, however, as Dr. Ostroff notes: "These animals were then widely distributed within the United States and some were even re-exported to Japan."

In addition to the monkeypox debacle, Doth's rap sheet includes getting caught twice for illegal international smuggling of wildlife in a two year period. Then, while supposedly under house arrest in Texas, he went to Florida to receive a wildlife shipment, but he didn't have the proper state license or permits—and the transport boxes happened to contain cocaine in addition to reptiles (see Winter 2002 AWI Quarterly).

One wonders what trouble Doth will get into next.


AWI Quarterly Summer 2003 Volume 52 Number 3

 Summer 2003 Volume 52 Number 3

In 1995, USA Today reported that three-year old Jacob Swartz of Quinlan, Texas was mauled by a cougar. His six-year old sister, Erin, also suffered injuries. This was not some random, unpreventable attack in the woods; the cougar was the family pet who escaped while his pen was being cleaned. The cougar was shot and killed. Though big cats, like the cougar on our cover (photographed by Frans Lanting/courtesy of Minden Pictures), may start out as cute and cuddly cubs, they eventually grow into their wild and potentially dangerous natural selves. Increasingly, people are keeping wild animals as pets: lions, tigers, bears, bobcats, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents from across the globe. It is outright dangerous to keep exotic animals as companions; they can hurt their human attendants, escape and harm other domestic and native animals, and carry diseases such as monkeypox that can be transferred to humans. Exotic animals in poor facilities such as roadside zoos can pose similar dangers as their keepers are ill-equipped to care for these animals appropriately.

The WTO threatens a nation's ability to refuse importation of products of animal cruelty, such as banning trade in eggs from hens trapped in battery cages. Compassion Over Killing

Good news! The recently-concluded IWC meeting established a Conservation Committee and rejected attempts to resume commercial whaling. Jim Nahmens/

Syndicate content