Exotic animals are not your average pets

After the recent events in Ohio, where an owner of a farm freed several exotic animals and then committed suicide, it begs the question: How does someone end up with his own dangerous animals at home?

It turns out some states make it easier to keep a tiger than a dog, as CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

Martine Colette runs the Wildlife Waystation, a sanctuary outside Los Angeles for nearly 500 animals -- everything from chimps to alligators to tigers -- who were once in people's homes or backyards.

"It may be a wonderful thing for an individual to have them as a pet," Colette said, "but it's a miserable life for the individual animal. It's not who it's supposed to be."

They end up at the Waystation when most owners inevitably realize they are not like other pets.

"It is not a dog," she said. "It will never be a dog. You can love it like you love your dog, but a tiger is a tiger, and a lion is a lion."

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The problem is that getting exotic pets is all too easy. They are sold on auction and in the classifieds of animal magazines, where $8,000 can buy you a baby tiger and $30,000 for a snow tiger.

Twenty-eight states ban ownership of the most dangerous exotic pets such as lions, tigers and bears. Fifteen other states require a license to own them.

The Humane Society says Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma are the most lenient when it comes to allowing dangerous wildlife as pets. In some places, there are actually more laws about having cats or dogs than there are mountain lions.

Colette says an animal's psychology is often damaged by having been someone's pet and then abandoned.

"What happens to these animals?" Tracy asked Colette.

Unless we find them a good quality zoo or park for them to go to," she said, "they remain here for the rest of their lives."

In 35 years, she has now cared for 76,000 rescued animals.


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