by Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Watch Out for the Elephant!”
Imagine you are driving on the freeway and suddenly you do not believe your eyes, there is a lion attacking the cars. You just better get out of the lion’s way because exotic animals are now roaming around the United States.
We do not have jungles near our cities but there are a large number of exotic animals that are loose and running wild. What if a policeman receives a telephone call about a cougar in a restaurant’s parking lot? The police have specialized training to handle criminals in many types of situations but not cougars, elephants, lions, alligators, chimpanzees, and many other exotic animals.
These animals are cute when they are young but some grow up to be adults of 500 pounds or more. There are incidents where tigers or other exotic animals escaped, killed a young child and critically injured others. The police were forced to shoot the animal. A new documentary film has the perfect title, “Elephant in the Living Room”, is exactly what has been happening.
Ohio Police Officer Tim Harrison explained, “You don’t have to travel to India to see a tiger, they are in the USA. We wish we wouldn’t have to produce a film like this, wish people would leave exotic animals in the wild. Exotic Animal Auctions attract thousands of people around the United States with Ohio and Missouri as the biggest offenders.
Unaccredited breeders and dealers will sell exotic animals to anybody without asking any questions. After adopting these exotic animals, most people are not aware that 99% of Veterinarians would not treat them. If the person does not want to keep their animals after they mature the only way to get rid of the animals is to turn them loose. I always wanted to have a monkey as a pet but due to zoning laws and the condo association probably wouldn’t approve.
The famous Siegfried and Roy are an excellent example. After many years of being in close contact, one of the tiger’s natural instincts took over. I have visited Siegfried and Roy’s home here in Las Vegas and saw the tigers lying on the couch and roaming freely around the rooms. Tim doesn’t think the exotic animals can be domesticated, “They could turn anytime without warning. We don’t know what triggers this behavior. They were not meant to live in a house, exotic animals were meant to hunt and kill.”
The scenes in “The Elephant in the Living Room” were exciting as we watched the police try to capture several exotic animals. These animals were very difficult to catch. I enjoyed the scenes of the cougar licking a man’s hand and playing ball. One of the most tender moments of the film, a man was crying because he had to get rid of his lions. When I watched the film, I was amazed and never realized there was such a problem here in the United States. The scenes were so vivid and so exciting. In preparation for the film, Director Michael Weber rode with Officer Tim Harrison for two years around the inner city and suburbs of Ohio towns.
These scenes are the actual footage of the incidents with real wild animals. My “Las Vegas Today Show” was taped “on location” at the Continental Hotel with a live audience for seven years and, in addition to the stars of the Las Vegas strip, my guests would often include the animal trainers from the Stardust and Dunes Hotel’s spectacular production shows.
One trainer brought his cougar which enjoyed munching on my microphone. I did not argue and just got out another one for me. There is a thrill being close to an exotic animal, but I was very happy the trainer was near. I could see the fascination the public has with these beautiful animals. It all began in 1995, when the reality television program “Animal Planet” aired a story about people raising exotic animals in their homes. You have to realize these are dangerous wild animals that could tear up a home or maul a person in minutes.
Tim feels, “People do not know the truth. Wild animals on television or in shows are given something to take the edge off and their teeth and claws are surgically altered. Over 30 states allow the ownership of snakes, pythons, bears, and other predatory pets. It is ridiculous to bring a cobra, viper, or other poisonous snake into your home. Not only can most of these animals harm you and your family, but also the neighbors and if it escapes, no one can stop an elephant.”
Winner of four Best Documentary Awards, “The Elephant in the Living Room” film’s premier is being held at Grumman’s Chinese Theater in California, and will open across the United States. www.theelephantinthelivingroom.com