Bizarre, Injury, Rights

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Own Exotic Pets


Last month,  Brent Kandra Sam Mazzola was killed by a pet bear owned by Ohio bear-wrestling entrepreneur Sam Mazzola. The gruesome attack brought focus onto the state’s lax exotic pet laws, and it wasn’t long after that Ohio instituted new laws to ban exotic animal ownership. Of course, the new law’s grandfather clause would have allowed Sam Mazzola to keep his bears anyway, but it does prevent new exotic pet owners and also keeps current owners from replacing or breeding their exotic animals.

But Ohio wasn’t the only state with lax exotic pet ownership laws. Consider this finding from a story:

According to a database of publicized exotic-pet escapes and attacks since 1990 kept by the animal rights group Born Free USA, Ohio ranks fifth in the number of episodes that hurt or killed a human — 14. The leader, Florida, has had 43, followed by Texas with 19, New York with 18, and California with 16. Alabama ties Ohio with 14.

For a full summary of all state’s laws on exotic pets, visit this website.

While the average person might see owning an exotic pet as strange, dangerous, and irresponsible, many exotic pet owners believe they’re actually helping these big animals. They say that habitat loss, poaching, public fear, and ignorance put these animals in danger, and in a way, they think they’re conservationists.

Regardless of what your position is on the issue, the simple truth is that owning an exotic pet can be incredibly dangerous. You can never predict the behavior of wild animals, and all it takes is a split-second for an animal to attack and seriously maim or kill a person.

Here are 7 horrifying tales of exotic pet attacks.

1. Travis the Chimp tears woman’s face apart

Travis the Chimp was an exotic pet that had been featured in TV commercials for Coca Cola and Old Navy. On one day in 2009, his owner, Sandra Herold, noticed Travis wasn’t acting like he normally does. So, she slipped him a Xanax. Later on, Travis the Chimp got out of his enclosure, and Herold contacted her friend Charla Nash to help bring the chimp back in.

That’s when things turned ugly.

The chimp brutally attacked Charla Nash, literally ripping her face off. This led to one of the most chilling 911 calls ever as owner Sandra Herold pleads with police to come stop the chimp from ripping her friend apart.

Months later, Charla Nash appeared on “Oprah” to reveal her face and share her story. She now has to drink her meals with a straw through the small hole where her mouth used to be, she lost both hands, her nose, eyes, and lips.

Click here to view photos of Charla Nash’s injury. WARNING: These are very graphic.

2. Python squeezes 2-year-old girl to death

In one of the saddest stories involving exotic pets, a 2-year-old girl in Florida was squeezed and bitten by her family’s 8-foot python. The little girl died of asphyxiation. She was in her crib when the python escaped its enclosure, entered her room, and squeezed her to death before any of her family members realized what had happened.

The mother of the child and her live-in boyfriend (it was his snake) were charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter over the girl’s death.

3. Roy Horn gets pummeled by 600-pound white tiger

Roy Horn, of Siegfried and Roy, was attacked by Montecore, the group’s 600-pound white tiger during a Las Vegas show in 2003. Horn was celebrating his 59th birthday that day, and when he was going through a routine with the animal, it stopped obeying his orders and attacked. The white tiger carried Horn of the stage by his throat, and by the time it let go, Horn had lost a lot of blood. He suffered a stroke after the attack, and needed to have a couple of major surgeries—one of which involved the doctors moving a large portion of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swelling brain.

Horn was lucky to have survived, and the group did its farewell performance earlier this year.

4. Woman gets crushed to death by pet camel

Cathie Ake was showing local news reporters her collection of exotic pets, including an 1800-pound camel named Polo. During the shoot, the camel suddenly attacked Cathie, knocked her to the ground and then laid on her. The enormous weight of the camel caused the owner to get crushed to death right in front of the reporters. It was a shocking turn of events that underscores just how dangerous exotic pets can be.

5. Pet python strangles owner

25-year-old Amanda Black was trying to give her pet python a shot of medication when it turned on her and strangled her to death. The 13-foot-python was loose in the room when the woman’s husband came home and found her dead on the floor in front of the snake’s cage. The python was later put down at the request of Amanda’s husband.

6. 66-year-old man gored to death by red deer

A Georgia man who owned exotic pets was found dead inside a deer’s pen on his property. The man had been gored several times in his upper body by the red deer’s antlers. He also owned buffalo, llama, horses, and other exotic pets.

7. Pet bear attacks and kills owner

After raising “Teddy” from cubhood for 9 years, Kelly Ann Walz was suddenly attacked and killed while cleaning out her black bear’s cage. The 350-pound bear turned on Walz while her two young kids were watching. The kids went to a neighbor’s house for help, and the man came over and shot the bear to death. But it was too late for Walz. The 37-year-old PA woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Do you think exotic pets should be banned nationwide? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.


  1. 1

    i don’t even understand why people do stupid things like this!!!! i am in the 6 grade and am doing a report on this (of my choice) and i can’t find any statistics if you know any websites PLEASE TELL ME. if people know that they are wild animals why would they do something like this. i don’t understand, yet i am still young i still have my strong opinions and i know for a fact that this kind of thing is no right. I went to a circus on May 1 2015 and well ya’ know those whips that they use to keep tigers and other animals in the the right positions and orders. Well one of the tigers were scared of it and it roared. I went up to the man that was doing the tigers and said that it was NOT ok. if you agree then please DO NOT keep a wild animal as a pet

  2. 2
  3. 3

    I don’t want non of the stupid ugly pets like they gonna kill y’all like wtf y’all got

  4. 4

    Why y’all put so much y’all got problems y’all annoying people someone should slap y’all

  5. 5

    i have a question why do people keep exotic animals if they know that in there mind they know there an wild animal???

  6. 6

    What I think is that all people should not have exotic pet at all so they wouldn’t get hurt or even die.

  7. 7

    You understand thus considerably on the subject of this subject, produced me in my view imagine it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be interested unless it is something to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. At all times handle it up!

  8. 8

    Where is this blog’s contact page because i cant seem to see the page, prehaps the blog owner should make it more easier to find.

  9. 9

    I’m sure I’m part of a minority in this topic, but I do agree with Deirdre in some areas…owning dangerous exotic pets has become a sort of fad, most people do it for the thrill of being near something so dangerous. it’s in a way the same reson people cliff dive and do other extream sports. and yes, I’m well aware that most of these animals are harmless. but I don’t remember Deirdre saying anything about how hedgehogs shoud be banned. so if you ask me, this law should be revised just a little…did you know some people see hamsters as exotic? but when it comes to animals like lions, and tigers and bears (oh my) I don’t think animals like these should be kept. from 1990 to now the total of exotic animal incidents is 1,484. the number of people to die from an attack from one of these animals is 75. true 75 may not seem like alot, but try telling that to their family and friends. Or better yet, what if it happened to a friend? what if one attacked you? I’m sure if a bear tried to pull you apart you wouldn’t be so keen on keeping one would you? by the way, most exotic pet attacks are not from bears or lions. it’s from reptiles! do you know how many people keep snakes? do you know how deadly some of those are? 18 out of those 75 people were killed by a reptile. on top of that, our selfishness is effecting not only our lives, but the everglades! I’m sure the everglades isn’t the only place facing this problem, but it’s the most known. for those of you that don’t know, Burmese pythons have found their way into the everglades. because they are not native, they have no natural enemys there and are free to multiply. animals native to the everglades have no way to protect themselfs from the pythons so many animals die. 68 percent of animal extinctions is due to invasive exotics. this is only second to habitat destruction. how did these exotics get here? well you tell me. and last but not least, lets talk about the animals. these animals are “harveted” by the ton and shipped all over the world, those that end up in pet stores are ones I feel bad for. do a little research on pet store conditions and the treatment of animals (but don’t say I didn’t tell you) pet stores really are horrible places, and can also affect an animals behavier. there’s also people who breed big cats and other exotics with hope of helping replenish their depleating population. here’s the thing though, these animals can’t ever be released into the wild, they would starve, nor will any zoo take them. the reality is people have been capturing, breeding, and buying these animals for our own selfish reasons, and it’s the animals who pay. I’m well aware of how many people may hate me after this post, but so be it. and thank you all the same to those who read this, even if they hate it.

  10. 11

    I agree with Angel! Hedgehogs and other small exotics are harmless!! Diedre, I do see your concern with disease but that is possible with any pet. Cats for instance carry a bacteria that can rot away flesh if not treated right away after being scratched. Proper hygiene will solve that problem. So should we place a ban on housecats? There are more people attacked by dogs than by exotic animals but yet a ban has not been placed on them. Dogs were once wild animas but have since been domesticated! I do see a need for a ban on larger, more dangerous exotic animals but please don’t take it out on the smaller more harmless animals like hedghogs, turtles and sugar gliders. With this ban in place my children would no longer be able to keep Snap (their pet turtle). I would have 5 very unhappy children on my hands. Who might I add, have never gotten sick even though turtles are a carrier for salmonella BECAUSE I have taught them not only how to properly care for their pet but also how to clean up when they are done holding him!

  11. 12

    This makes me SO ANGRY. I understand having laws about large wild animals that could turn violent. However, some of these “wild animal” laws take it too far. In PA they have created a law that no only bans dangerous wild animals like lions, tigers, bears, and snakes, but also small harmless animals like hedgehogs, sugar gliders and degus. Right now, you can even transport a hedgehog through the state. Now this insanity threatens to reach my home state, OH. Since I am allergic to cats and dogs, there are few choices for pets unless they are the “exotic” variety. My husband and fell in love with hedgehogs. We just lost our first hedgehog, Curious, to cancer and just recently adopted a new one, Burrow. We had even hoped to adopt a rescue heggie, one that had been abused or abandoned. They are cute, sweet and loving. Heggies are not dangerous, mine didn’t even bite. They weight less than a pound, are quiet and are very easy to maintain. Now those dreams are about to be dashed. They are FAR LESS DANGEROUS than any cat or dog. I someone were suddenly say that because someone was injured by a pet bear that you could no longer own your dog (many of which are dangerous) or cat, there would certainly be public outrage. At any moment this laws could pass and I will never be able to own another hedgehog again. The though breaks my heart and I have spent hours crying after finding out about this insane law from the lady who sold us our last hedgehog. This is all so ridiculous! It would be so easy to create an exception for non-dangerous exotics, but no one seems to care. Why is it any different for hedgehogs?

  12. 13

    Thank you for making the correction.
    Addressing the topic of the article, “Do you think exotic pets should be banned nationwide?”, I believe is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Yes, I have been personally effected by the situation which has made this topic personal for me, but putting that aside and looking at the facts:
    * The trade of wild animals is at least a $25 billion dollar industry world wide. About a quarter to a third of the trade world wide is illegal, second only to drugs and guns.
    * Also, while most of these animals may seem harmless as babies, they grow into adults that can be dangerous to humans. Wild animals are not domesticated simply because they are raised in captivity. The domestication of a wild animal is an evolutionary process that takes thousands of years. The behaviors of wild animals kept as pets or used in circuses is unpredictable. It is the animal that pays the price when it behaves according to its instincts as a wild animal.
    *Spring 2003, an outbreak of Monkeypox occurred throughout the Midwest among individuals exposed to prairie dogs. This outbreak caused the FDA and CDC to severely restrict the rodents as pets. The monkeypox problem also spurred several states to establish further regulations of exotic pets.
    *90% of reptiles carry salmonella, which can be transferred to humans through feces. The CDC estimates every year that 70,000 people contract salmonella from pet reptiles.
    *Macque monkeys, who are increasingly kept as pets, frequently carry Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1, also known as B virus. This virus is mostly harmless in monkeys but can be fatal in humans. 80% of untreated humans who contract B virus die from the infection. Scientist warn that the increase in trade in non-human primates, including macaques, could create “an emerging infectious disease threating the United States.”
    These are just some highlighted concerns that most people do not even consider thinking about when it comes to owning an exotic animal or having a friend owning an exotic animal as a pet. The risks are not just to the owner directly, but as I have pointed out medically can be indirectly to the public through indirect exposure due to improper handwashing or handling of an animal while visiting a persons residence.
    I could go on and on to list why a person should not need to own or possess a exotic or wild animal as a pet using examples of the welfare of humans and the animal itself as basis of understanding, but the reality of the situation is our society is a society that feels we deserve to own and have everything. For every argument there is a counter argument regarding this topic – and many do not even make sense. I think the real question is, “Why do I feel I need to own a creature that was intended to live in another country, or in the woods, or in a swamp, etc. and take it from its natural habitat and bring it to my home, farm, apartment, etc. and justify to myself and those around me that I am doing it for the sake of the animal even though I may be receiving monetary gain (money), attention (people all of a sudden show interest), or because it something no one else has and I just have to have one (greed and self want).
    So as everyone continues to ponder on the subject and throw out about drunk drivers, medical problems and their statics that are not related to the topic at hand of “Do you think exotic pets should be banned nationwide?” will just fade in the background.
    I personally would encourage everyone who has interest in the topic to go to see the documentary movie release, “Elephant in the Living room” by movie director Michael Webber. This movie discusses both sides of this issue and also features Tim Harrison a retired police officer who has been called out numerous times to aide in the capture of exotic pets all over Ohio and elsewhere in the United States. Ultimately, as responsible individuals, we all should evaluate ourselves, our beliefs, our community, and what we feel we is right and just when it comes to this issue.

  13. 14

    The problem with the question, “Do you think exotic pets should be banned nationwide?”, is that it assumes all exotic pets are like the cases described above. I’m not saying they should not be banned, but we have to look at the broader picture. For example, if I listed 10 instances of horrific auto accidents, would that justify banning all auto traffic? How many exotic pets are there compared to the number of incidents. How does that compare to normal pets? I’m sure I could find 7 tales of dog or perhaps even cat attacks that end in fatalities. This reminds me of the time a friend tried to make the case that ADHD is beneficial to those affected. To emphasize his point, he listed a dozen examples of rich or powerful people proven or suspected of having ADHD. This was a selection bias and I could have easily found as many examples of destitute and miserable people with ADHD. Again, I’m not saying Exotic pets are good. But looking at 7 high profile cases won’t prove the argument for me.

  14. 15

    Thanks for the correction.

  15. 16
  16. 17

    Your article is incorrect in the beginning. It was not Sam Mazzola that died from being attacked by his own bears but, my son Brent Kandra. Sam Mazzola, as it turns out, has a long history of disregard for following the rules of the law when it came to his animals and exploited his animals for his own personal gain. My son was not a professionally trained animal handler as he lead the public to believe. Please contact your state representative and express your concerns about having exotic animals as pets kept in your state or in your neighborhood.

    • 18

      While the attack on your son is very sad and it shouldn’t have happened. However, that is no reason that my sweet, innocent hedgehog should have to die because of it. This law Gov Strickland’s and you are pushing means my innocent hedgehog could soon be put to death. Is that what you call Justice? We love hedgehogs, just like others love their dogs and cats. However, because of allergies, we can have neither. Exotics are the only answer for me. I’m not asking to own any kind of dangerous animal or that anyone should be allowed to, what I am asking is to be allowed to own hedgehogs. Neither of my heggies ever hurt anyone, they also make almost no noise and little mess. They are perfect pets for night owls and those with limited space. Before the threat of this law came along, my husband and I even had hopes of creating a mini rescue, taking in abused and abandoned heggies. Now, as we were slowly getting over the loss of our first heggie (Curious), due to mouth cancer, those dreams may be crushed. In fact, tonight I spent over an hour crying, terrified of loosing our new hedgehog Burrow or being denied medical care for him because heggies will become illegal in Ohio.

      I am not the only one this blanket law could effect, it could have a snowball effect. It could put families earning an honest living by breeding various exotics such as heggies, sugar glider, degus and other small non-dangerous pets out on the street. There is a big difference between a Bear and tiny hedgehog weighing less than a pound. Most cats and dogs are way more dangerous than heggies, sugar glider and degus 12x over. If this law were to affected you or your neighbors ability to own a cat or dog, there would be outrage. People act like it’s an okay to take away my right to own a heggie if it stops dangerous animals from being sold, at least legally, even though a simple exemption in the law could easily allow for non-dangerous exotics. Think about it. You may rest well tonight, but I will spend another night crying knowing at any moment this law could pass and lose another precious pet. Think that I’m exaggerating and that the law can’t possibly include such harmless animals? Think again. A similar law in did pass is PA and now you can’t even transport a hedgehog through the state. If you do care, please make sure to CALL Gov Strickland ASAP and explain why exemptions for non-dangerous exotics be made. Mommies and Daddies of Hedgehogs and other small exotic pets in Ohio need your help. Governor Strickland is trying to push this through and know if this gets passed it will be a nightmare to ever get exemtptions made.

      Namaste (the light in me, salutes the light within you)
      Angel and Burrow

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