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Born Free USA’s Campaign to Stop the Exotic 'Pet' Trade

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Keep Wildlife in the Wild

"If my home were in the wild, that’s where I’d want to be. So keep wildlife in their home in the wild!" — Florence Henderson, actress perhaps best known for her role in "The Brady Bunch"

ISSUE: When Chimpanzees Attack


Remember the sad case of Travis the chimpanzee? Exploited by the advertising industry as a prop in several TV commercials, he was kept in a Connecticut household for years before attacking a family friend two years ago. Charla Nash, 55, sustained severe injuries, including the loss of her hands and the eventual need for a face transplant. Travis was shot dead.

The incident never should have happened. Primates should never be "pets." Born Free USA's team works with legislators to introduce and pass laws that limit or ban exotic "pet" trade and ownership. Now, for example, we are pushing for a reintroduction of the Captive Primate Safety Act — which the House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly right after the Travis incident — to stop the trade in primates as "pets."

Exotic "pet" tragedies are not limited to chimpanzees.

Nine days ago a news report from Putnam Lake, NY, revealed, "A woman died after apparently being bitten by her pet Black Mamba. The woman also had more than six dozen snakes, 56 of which were poisonous, including a cobra, which is illegal to possess without a permit."

You can find incidents such as this in Born Free USA's unprecedented Exotic Animal Incidents database, an easy-to-use informational tool that allows you to search incidents involving exotic "pets" across the country. The information we collect can help you campaign against the keeping of wild animals in your community.

Many animals who have become too difficult for their owners to care for, or who have outgrown their usefulness as "pets" or profit-makers, end up languishing in small pens in backyards, doomed to live in deplorable conditions, or are abandoned or killed. A very few lucky ones are placed in genuine sanctuaries — such as Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary in southwest Texas — to live out the rest of their lives. (Our executive vice president, Adam Roberts, is intimately involved not only with our Texas facility but also serves as president of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.)

Exotic animals belong in the wild, not in someone's living room, yard or garage. Help us stop the exotic "pet" trade.

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  • Born Free USA makes monetary contributions to parrot protection efforts in Honduras and Cameroon as part of our Global Field Projects. The impact of the pet trade on wild parrot populations is devastating, with parrot species more globally threatened than almost any other major group of birds.
  • Learn the laws of the land. Does your state ban or regulate the keeping of wild exotic animals as pets? Check out our map to find out. If your state does not currently have laws and/or regulations, write to your state legislators, urging them to pass a law prohibiting the keeping of exotic animals as pets. Be sure to send us a copy of your letter.
  • Want to know if the wild animals in your community are being kept as "pets" or by a bona fide wildlife sanctuary? See if the operation is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
  • Help us expand our Pet Shop Locator database of responsible pet supply stores that don't sell live animals of any kind by submitting information about your local responsible retailer.
  • Don't shop at stores that sell live animals. The fact is, in a retail environment animals are treated like mere commodities in order for the store to realize a profit. This often leads to animal suffering - especially when cute babies become expensive adults. Parrots and all the world's other winged wonders should not live in cages. Celebrate National Bird Day, which we launched nearly a decade ago, every Jan. 5.
  • Do you tweet? Or blog? Write something personal about why exotic animals such as lions, tigers, bears, and nonhuman primates belong in the wild and not in peoples' homes - and let us know about it.
  • Don't patronize establishments that have exotic animals on the premises such as roadside zoos, restaurants or hotels.
  • Family activity: Decide to make a difference for companion animals truly in need of a home and our companionship - save a dog or cat by adopting from your local animal shelter!

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SHOP: Support Born Free USA Today!

  • Check out our Plush Animal Collection! Adopt Freedom the Parrot and you will be supporting Born Free USA in its efforts to protect parrots worldwide and to end the trade of exotic "pets."
  • Participate in our Keep Wildlife in the Wild Auction. Who knows? You might want to bid on "ImaginOcean" tickets or "Cheetah" artwork by Bela Fidel.
  • "Lucky," by Born Free USA's Monica Engebretson, is an educational children's book that gently awakens children to the plight of captive birds and birds captured in the wild. All "Lucky" sales proceeds benefit avian welfare, rescue and conservation.
  • Please consider making a donation to our Global Field Projects, which include efforts to protect scarlet macaws in Honduras and African grey parrots in Cameroon.

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One of the best actions you can take for the animals is to become a Born Free USA Member »

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