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 (see story pages 8-10).
Photo by Frans Lanting/courtesy of Minden Pictures