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Film reveals dangers of exotic animals as pets

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
"The Elephant in the Living Room" examines what's going on in the U.S. with wild animals not living in their natural habitats. They're some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, but in some homes, they're just pets.

The documentary follows a former Ohio law enforcement officer who rescues exotic animals that should not be living as family pets.

"When you think about getting these large predators in your home, always remember large dangerous predators--you're signing a death warrant. One of you is going to die. It's either going to be you or the animal," said Tim Harrison.

The documentary does not take sides on whether or not people should keep exotic animals as pets, but Harrison has seen the horrors associated with that, including death by boa constrictor.

"The worst way to die is to be constricted to death by a snake. If you ever saw anybody that's been constricted to death, it's horrible," said Harrison.

The film also shares some startling statistics about wildlife not living in the wild.

"There's 3,400 permitted tigers in Texas and there's only 1,400-plus in India right now in the wild, and that's disgusting," Harrison said.

In Florida, snake owners have created an invasive situation.

"So what they did is they take them down, born free, and turn them loose in the everglades. So, over 200,000 they guessed, a guesstimate, of Burmese pythons alone in the everglades. It's the greatest eco-disaster we've ever had in the United States. It's worse than the cane toads in Australia. And they're eating everything down there," said Harrison. "The moral of the story is, let's get back to respecting wildlife. Let's leave it at a safe distance away from us. If we have to live with it, let's live with respect."

"The Elephant in the Room" is rated PG. It'll be in limited release Friday.

Meantime, Harrison is now the director of Outreach for Animals, in case you know of an animal that shouldn't be where it is.