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Is It ever OK To Let My Pet Go In The Wild?

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Hey defenders, do you own an exotic pet or “wild animal” that you didn’t know how to care for? Are you considering letting this animal go in the wild? If so, you’re not alone. People regularly release pets, particularly exotic animals like birds, reptiles, and certain mammals, into the wild. This happens for many reasons.

Sometimes it’s just a pet owner concerned they can no longer care for an animal, and think it will be better off in nature. Sometimes people don’t know where to take their pets and settle for the easy alternative of just letting them go outside. Other times, people are just careless and want to get rid of a pet that they never should have had in the first place.  Unless that animal was born wild and needed temporary human intervention, you should never release your pet in the wild. Read on to learn why it’s a problem, and what you should do instead.

The Type of Pets That Are Regularly Released Into the Wild

Occasionally, pets such as dogs and cats either escape their homes, or are abandoned, and left to roam the streets as strays. However, most animals that are intentionally released tend to be more of the exotic variety. It’s common to find housepets like goldfish overpopulating local lakes. You may also see pythons regularly found in Asia living in the Florida Everglades. Pet owners that have these wild animals tend to think that they’ll be better suited for life in the wild than in a tank at home. These animals include many forms of reptiles, birds, and fish. Unfortunately, unless done with careful research and help from an expert, most animals won’t survive to the wild.

Can Your Pet Survive the Wild?

The short answer to this question is: probably not. There are many factors that relate to an animals chances of survival in the wild. This includes its position in the food chain, and whether or not it has food available. Many small sized animals become food for natural predators in the wild. Animals require specific environments to thrive and are very sensitive to elements such as temperature, humidity, and sunlight. Releasing a pet into the wrong environment could be too much for them to survive. Other pets require a mother to teach them how to survive. Captive-raised pets may never learn the skills necessary to survive as adults. These pets do not survive long in the wild as they either become food for another animal or fail to find food for themselves. Animals like fish are very sensitive to temperature and water type, and rarely survive in the wild.

Occasionally, an animal kept as a pet will survive and even thrive in the wild. Anyone who lives in a suburb has probably seen a stray cat or maybe a few stray dogs living in a pack. These are resilient animals that survive on the trash of humans and whatever small animals they can catch. Sadly, they’re a neighborhood nuisance and are often captured or killed. Florida is currently overrun with iguanas that are thriving in the humid environment, but are eating all the food that other native animals need to survive. These animals are known as “Invasive Species.” Even these animals that do have the ability to survive the wild live shorter lives due to predators and disease.

What is an Invasive Species?

Nature is a delicate balance, and when humans mix things up and release pets where they shouldn’t be, bad things happen. You can read more about invasive species here. Sadly, people commonly release animals such as Iguanas, parrots, goldfish, and certain turtles into the wild. These animals are very hardy and survive in their new environment. However, they can cause many problems for the species that normally live in that environment. They can eat the food for other animals. Invasive species may eat other animals as well or carry disease that were not native to that ecosystem.

Are There Any Pets You Can Release Into the Wild?

No. Animals that are bought or adopted and raised as pets should not be released into the wild. If you have a pet that you can no longer care for, reach out to rescue organizations, pet stores, zoos, or herpetological (reptile) clubs for help finding a new home for your pet. In some cases, wild animals require human help to survive. Some people may raise a bird, or a squirrel, or another sick or wounded animal as pets. They can be re-released into the wild when they’re healthy, but this should only be done after consulting with a veterinarian or a professional.

Having pets is one of the greatest joys, but it is also a big responsibility. Before adopting a new pet, make sure to research what its needs are. Know how long it will live, what kind of cage or room it needs, and what environments it will thrive in. But you should never release your pet to the wild. It’s cruel to your pet, and potentially devastating to the environment.

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