The Troubling Case of a “PET” Deer: Dangers of Keeping Wild Animals as Pets

In rural Missouri, a deer strapped with a collar and labeled “PET” in bold painted letters, has sparked a debate about the ethics and safety of keeping wild animals as pets.

The deer, discovered near De Soto, roughly 35 miles southwest of St. Louis, was a wild animal that someone had apparently taken from its natural habitat and attempted to tame, the Kansas City Star reports.

The act of placing a collar on the deer and labeling it as a “pet” may have been well-intentioned, but it has severe repercussions for both the animal and the human community.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri Department of Conservation promptly responded to the situation. Dan Zarlenga, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said in a statement that wild animals should not be kept as pets. In addition to being illegal, domesticating deer can lead to several issues.

The Dangers of Keeping a Deer as a Pet

Domesticated deer can pose health risks to humans and other animals. These animals can bring parasites and diseases into homes, endangering household pets. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a deadly illness that affects deer, presents a significant concern. As the Missouri Department of Conservation reports, the CWD is slowly spreading throughout the state, and wildlife officials are working diligently to prevent its further transmission.

Keeping wild animals like deer as pets is often illegal, as it typically requires permits and specialized care.

Photo: Pexels
Keeping wild animals like deer as pets is often illegal, as it typically requires permits and specialized care.

Wild animals have specific dietary and environmental needs that humans are ill-equipped to provide. As BBC Earth reports, when taken into captivity and later released into the wild, these animals may lack the skills necessary for survival or become overly dependent on humans. This dependence can lead to a tragic outcome for the animal.

Conservation experts stress that the best approach to dealing with wildlife is to leave it wild. Attempts to domesticate deer or other wild animals often lead to negative outcomes for the creatures themselves, National Geographic reports, and humans are not equipped to provide the necessary care and environment for their well-being.

Wild animals have specific dietary and environmental needs that are challenging for humans to meet.

Photo: Pexels
Wild animals have specific dietary and environmental needs that are challenging for humans to meet.

Let Wild Animals Be Wild

Domesticating wild animals, particularly deer, is fraught with risks and complications. As humans, we must respect the boundaries of the natural world and refrain from attempting to make wild creatures into pets. The health and safety of these animals, as well as the well-being of our communities, depend on responsible and ethical actions.

The incident in De Soto serves as a stark reminder of the shared responsibility we bear in safeguarding wildlife. Let this be a call to action to protect the delicate balance of our ecosystems and ensure that wild animals remain wild.

Trying to keep an exotic animal just because it looks cool or because you want to show how much money you have is not worth the toll it takes on the animals themselves. It needs to stop.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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