Each semester the HAWS Critter Club goes on a field trip to an animal related location. A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be able to visit Valley of the Kings, a sanctuary for large cats and other exotic animals.
Unfortunately there are people who aren't satisfied with the selection of pets from those animals humans have already domesticated. Wanting something "different" or because it would be "cool" some people get animals such as lions, tigers or wolves.
Unfortunately in many states this is legal, and additionally private owners are usually unable to care for the animals properly. Good zoos spend a tremendous amount of time and resources to ensure their animals are cared for properly. Not only does the animal need food and water, but they need an appropriate habitat and their emotional and instinctual needs met. Many zoos place a priority on environmental enrichment which allows their animals to use their natural behaviors and keep their minds engaged.
Often people who get exotic pets don't do their research and aren't able to provide for the animal in a humane manner. Additionally many times exotic animals are dangerous since they are still wild animals, and require enclosures that are much more secure than needed for a domesticated animal. And sometimes private owners
of these exotics end up being neglectful or downright abusive.
Many of the animals at Valley of the Kings come from previous owners such as this. Some are retired circus animals which are no longer useful after just a few years performing tricks in front of audiences.
The Critter Club kids learned about these animals on our visit to the sanctuary and how damaging it is to keep them as pets. The kids were able to meet all the animals, and feed the big cats raw chicken legs by piercing it on the end of a bamboo pole and passing it through the double layer of fencing to the cats.
Valley of the Kings tries to provide a final home for wild animals who previously lived terrible lives. While they should never have been born into these lives, the sanctuary tries to make their last years comfortable and as happy as possible. Hopefully the Critter Club kids can pass the message on that people should stick to keeping animals that were actually domesticated and therefore happy living with people.