Adorable dogs and cute cats are of course a part of the pet-owning universe. But so are retired race horses and exotic (and sometimes illegal) birds and lizards. In this year’s pet issue, we take a look at working animals (guide dogs) and resting animals (retired horses) as well as tasty treats for your dogs and some of the stranger animals people try to keep as pets. And for animal-lovers of all stripes, we have information on local organizations that can help you find and care for the perfect pet.
Love your pets
Upcoming events and places to care for your furry friends
By Tori Loubier
Celebrate your pets
• The Animal Rescue League of NH, 545 Route 101 in Bedford is wants to help you Make Your Buddy a Bunny on Saturday, Feb. 26, from noon to 5 p.m. This event will feature local rabbit experts who can answer questions on rabbit care and proper rabbit toys and treats. Enjoy bunny games and meet some adoptable rabbits. All money raised during the event and through the bake sale will be used to help the many rabbits that come through the League’s doors each year. Call 472-DOGS or e-mail Danielle2@rescueleague.org.
• Families can stop by the Concord Public Library, 45 Green St., Concord on Thursday, March 3, for pet crafts at 2:30 p.m., in the children’s room. The pet toys created will be donated to the Merrimack Valley SPCA. Call 230-3682.
• Give back to area pets by attending the Kennel Up fundraiser at the Animal Rescue League of NH, 545 Route 101 in Bedford, on Saturday, March 19, from noon to 5 p.m. Get educated about the League’s mission, goals and needs. Attendees will be asked to raise their own “Adoption Fee,” which will allow for their “adoption” or release at the end of the day. There are suggested adoption fees; participants can choose which level they would like to reach during their stay at the League: $250 provides 50 rabies vaccines for the animals in the League’s care; $500 is the average amount spent on each animal during its stay at the League; $750 is the amount spent on approximately 250 bags of cat litter; $1,500 is equal to one full Spayapalooza Clinic fee; $2,500 would cover all shelter costs for one day. Register with Robin McCune at 472-5714 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• There will be a rabies and microchip clinic at the New Hampshire SPCA, 104 Portsmouth Ave, Stratham, on Sunday, March 20, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. $15 per animal for rabies shots and $35 for chips. Call 772-2921 or visit nhspca.org.
• Do you wonder What do I do with all these pests on my pet? The Concord Cooperative Market, 24 South Main St., Concord, can help you with exploring natural treatments to repel ticks, fleas and heart worms in your dog or cat. This program will be led by Dr. Katherine Evans, D.V.M., on Tuesday, March 29, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Celery Stick Café at the Concord Cooperative Market. Free and open to the public. Reservations required. Call 225-6840, sign up at the store, or e-mail email@example.com.
• Sips for strays 2011 will be held at Milly’s Tavern, 500 North Commercial St., Manchester, on Thursday, April 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. This beer-tasting fundraising event will help save kittens. $20 for 10 sample brews, a 50/50 raffle and silent auction. Buy tickets at animalallies.org.
• Camp Critter is offered by the The Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire for children ages 7 to 11 who love animals. The program covers responsible pet ownership, safety with animals, dog bite prevention, animal behavior and wildlife. Activities include crafts, games and guest speakers. Summer camp runs Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is offered six different weeks in July and August. The registration fee is $200. Call 472-3647 or visit www.rescueleague.org.
Find your own pet to love, or care for the one you already have
• The Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford needs people to adopt a cat. The shelter is at capacity. It’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 7 p.m., and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Call 472-DOGS. The league is also seeking vet care donations. Checks can be mailed to ARL-NH, 545 Route 101, Bedford, NH 03110. Donations can be made at www.rescueleague.org. Be sure to include “veterinary care” in the designation line. Call Robin Ahlgren at 472-5714
• Adopt a pet at the Greater Derry Humane Society, Salty Lane Farm, Lane Road, Derry. The society lists pets available for adoption on petfinder.com, many with pictures available. Services include animal rescue, pet therapy, dog training and pet education. Call 434-1512 or visit www.derryhumanesociety.com.
• Learn about a dog’s total wellness from Tracey Brown during her presentations on canine massage. Brown works primarily through Baker Wells Animal Hospital, Hampton Falls/Seabrook. Call 978-337-7965 and visit paws-in-hand.com.
• Animal Allies is all about cats. The organization has feline adoptions regularly. Located at 476 Front St., Manchester, Animal Allies is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 3 p.m. Visit www.animalallies.org.
• Horse and farm animal clinics are offered at Gelinas Farm, 471 4th Range Road in Pembroke. The clinics are offered throughout the season and focus on maneuvering obstacles, cow work, ranch shows and horsemanship. There are also youth farm camps. Call 225-7024 or visit www.gelinasfarm.com.
• The Manchester Animal Shelter, 490 Dunbarton Road, Manchester, has animals available for adoption, and can help people with lost pets or bringing in stray animals. In addition, the Shelter offers “Fix-a-Pit,” the city’s first-ever spay/neuter program free of cost to pit bull owners who live in Manchester. Fix-a-Pit will provide city pit bull owners with a free spay/neuter, rabies vaccine and a microchip. Call 628-3544 or visit manchesteranimalshelter.org.
• The NH SPCA, 104 Portsmouth Ave, Stratham, is open for pet adoptions. SPCA also offers puppy socializing classes, CGC certification, dog agility courses, basic obedience, CPR and first aid for pets, rabies clinics and much more. Call 772-2921 or visit nhspca.org
• Learn about pet first aid by taking classes from New Hampshire Gateway Chapter of Red Cross, 28 Concord St. in Nashua. Classes include dog or cat first aid and cover protecting your pet from injury and what to do if your pet is choking, not breathing, or bleeding or has possible broken bones. Additionally, it covers treatment for shock, poisoning, snakebites, sudden illness including carsickness and heat or cold emergencies. $60 per class. Call 889-6664 or visit nashua.redcross.org
• The third Saturday of each month is SPCA Petco day at Petco, 34 Fort Eddy Road, Concord. Visit with Concord-Merrimack County SPCA volunteers and meet adoptable pets. Call 225-7355.
Animal shelters and animal advocacy organizations
• The Cocker Spaniel Rescue of New England in Greenfield is devoted to rescuing spaniels and finding homes for them. Visit csrne.com or call 547-3363.
• Cocheco Valley Humane Society at 262 County Farm Road in Dover offers pet adoptions as well as humane education programs and resources for pet owners, and hosts events throughout the year to raise money for the Society. Call 749-5322 or visit cvhsonline.org.
• Pet adoption, fostering, therapy, and lost pet services can be found at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua, 24 Ferry Road, Nashua. Call 889-BARK or visit www.hsfn.org.
• The New Hampshire Animal Rights League in Concord is working to end fur trapping, more specifically the trapping of bobcats in New Hampshire, permanently. They also offer information on spaying and neutering and other pet services. They are always looking for support, volunteers or members. Visit nhanimalrights.org.
• Salem Animal Rescue League, 4 SARL Drive in Salem, offers pet adoption, pet care including spaying and neutering and microchipping, as well as two separate areas for dogs and cats, the Kitty City and Dog Kennels. Visit www.sarl-nh.org or call 893-3210.
• Weare Animal Guardians (WAG) is all about providing humane care and shelter for abandoned, abused and unwanted animals, as well as finding them new homes. They offer a “Home to Home” adoption process that allows the pet to stay in his current home until a match is made for a new owner. Visit www.wearewag.org or call 529-5443.
• If you’re in a bind, the Veterinary Emergency Center of Manchester is available to help with any pet needs. They are located at 336 Abby Road, Manchester. Call 666-6677.
Have pet events? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pet-related listings appear regularly in the Misc. section of the Inside/Outside listings.
Guide dogs help humans
Puppy-raisers focus on the higher purpose
Calling all Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers and German Shepherds. Sorry, Chihuahuas and poodles, you just don’t make the cut.
Even if you make the initial round of having the correct genes, only dogs that are a reasonable size, in good health, have easy coat care, are confident in all environments, have good social manners and are easy to train are accepted.
These strict parameters are set by Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a group that has every reason to be picky.
Since the mid-1950s, Guiding Eyes has been training dogs to assist the visually impaired. Through decades of selective breeding, Guiding Eyes has refined the traits ideal for guide dogs and, in doing so, has provided support to some of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States, according to Michelle Brier, the events and marketing manager for the organization. Though Guiding Eyes is headquartered in New York, it has programs and volunteers throughout the East Coast. “We have been in this area for quite some time, but our recent quest into the world is to look for more puppy-raisers,” Brier said.
The growing demand for puppy-raisers and guide dogs is largely due to the aging of the baby boomer generation, which, according to Brier, is increasing the number of visually impaired people in the U.S. She predicts that by 2030 the number will jump to 2.4 million.
“A lot of blindness is related to macular degeneration, and though not all blind people need or use guide dogs, the demand will [continue to] grow in the next 20 years,” she said.
In response, Guiding Eyes has begun puppy-raising classes held on Sundays at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Nashua.
Anyone can be a puppy-raiser, but the process for guide dogs is far more complex and drawn out. There are currently about 400 volunteers from Maine to North Carolina, and Guiding Eyes tracks dogs through their journey, which starts at breeding, moves to whelping, then to early training and socialization, and on to puppy testing, then puppy-raising, eventually guide dog training and finally, a handful of canines become working guide dogs.
Guiding Eyes does not take a guide dogs’ role lightly: “They need to know how to sense traffic, cross a street, know if a car is coming to stop their partner and keep them safe,” Brier said.
This is the primary role of the puppy-raiser. He or she takes in eight-week old puppies for about 12 to 16 months and is responsible for putting dogs into as many different social and environmental settings as possible.
Puppy-raisers “teach [puppies] house manners, basic obedience, socializing to everything the world has to offer,” Brier said.
Raising a puppy is not complex. In fact, it’s as easy as weaving it into your everyday life, according to Brier: “It can be as simple as asking your puppy to sit while you brush your teeth, or taking them with you during lunch so they can practice loose-leash walking. It’s finding everyday activities that your dog can share in doing at their levels.”
Guiding Eyes requires puppy-raisers to attend three or four pre-training classes where they can learn about the program and make an educated decision.
“It’s fun, but it is a commitment. The work we do with our dogs is based on positive reinforcement. No corrections. We believe good training stems from puppy and handler, and it should be natural,” Brier said.
After the puppy-raising has been completed, dogs are put through an evaluation in which a director of training and breeding will decide whether or not the dog can continue to formal training. After the formal training, a guide dog is matched with a blind person and they are dubbed a team. At this time, the dog is about two years old and the process has cost about $45,000. This is no small feat, and teams are very carefully matched up.
“Walking pace, environment, characteristics, everything matters when you are forming a match between dog and person. Some dogs, like people, thrive in a city; some need a rural setting,” Brier said. “You want a dog that will work naturally with a person.”
Letting puppies go to their team can be a difficult task for raisers.
“Every single puppy-raiser is asked 100 times a day how hard it is to let dogs go at the end of their stay with you. Everyone has a different response, but when you get this puppy you know you are raising it for a higher destiny, for a superior purpose,” said Brier, who is a puppy-raiser herself.
“You never think that this is going to be your pet; you know you are doing this for someone else to have a more independent life. It doesn’t keep you from loving the pet,” she said.
Dog-lovers can understand the way dogs can touch and enhance lives, and it’s this philosophy that drives Guiding Eyes. Each year some 160 teams are created, and more than 7,000 have graduated since the organization was established, according to the website.
To learn more about becoming a puppy-raiser, call 1-866-GEB-LABS or visit www.guidingeyes.org/volunteer/puppy-raising/.
Retired horses find homes
Socializing helps them readjust
By Adam Coughlin
Legendary race horses, like Secretariat, seem to have a charmed life. They win big races and then go off to stud. But what about the many horses these superstars beat on their way to the top? What happens to them when it is time to hang up their harness? Many find new homes in people’s back yards, but the journey from the track to your home can take a lot of work.
The universal birthday for race horses is Jan. 1, which means a breeder’s worst nightmare is for a horse to be born Dec. 31 because the next day it is already one year old. Ellen Harvey, director of harness racing communications for the United States Trotting Association, said this is done to establish consistency amongst race horses so ones of similar age are competing against each other, much like the birthday cutoff for little league.
It helps that most race horses are born around the same time.
“Mother Nature did not intend for horses to be born in the winter,” Harvey said.
Harvey said Feb. 15 is the unofficial start of breeding season but most horses are born in March, April and May because the weather is best. The larger the animal, the longer the gestation period; 11 months is typical.
While most horses in America are domestic, horses were originally wild and so instinctively they know they are prey, not predators. This is why labor usually lasts only a half hour, according to Harvey, and the new baby is moving around within an hour of delivery. Horses in the wild wouldn’t have the luxury of taking their time.
Race horses, specifically standardbreds, which are known to race in harness instead of a saddle, are allowed to race up until their 15th birthday, according to Harvey. She said in limited cases some horses can compete past 16 in amateur races but not professionally. The earliest a horse can race is at 2 years old, but, like humans, some are late bloomers. In a lot of races in New England speed isn’t much of a factor, so a lot of horses here are older. While the max is 15 years, Harvey said most careers last only six or seven years. With the average horse living to be 25, plus or minus five years, much longer than other domestic animals like cats or dogs, there is a lot of life after racing. So what happens to them?
Well, a very large percentage of the females become mothers, according to Harvey. She said amongst males, geldings (horses that have been neutered) are a lot easier to deal with and new owners don’t have to worry about accidental reproduction. Because of the standardbred’s racing background, many find unique lines of work.
“Almost every horse in the Newark, N.J., police department is a former race horse,” Harvey said.
“Amish and Mennonites, people who don’t use machinery, often use former racers as well because they’ve been broken in to drive and pull carts.”
Still others find a unique niche and are adopted by Civil War reenactors.
“I have been told that the McClellan saddle, named after the Civil War general, fits on standardbreds better than any other horse,” Harvey said. “But the majority are used as pleasure or recreational horses.”
When a horse’s career is over, how does it find a new home, whether it be the police force or someone’s back yard?
Most of the time their owners will contact a rescue organization, like the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of New Hampshire or the Live and Let Live Farm in Chichester. Teresa Paradise, executive director of Live and Let Live Farm, has worked with race horses since her youth. At 17, she worked at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts and saw the true behind-the-scenes of the race industry.
“It is a not a pretty place,” Paradise said.
As a result, she set a goal that one day she would save horses. She has reached that goal. Live and Live Farm helps more than 60 horses a year. Paradise said they come from all over and in various stages of health. Some pleasure horses have been abused or literally starved to death. While race horses are often in better physical shape, they have their own problems.
“Often they don’t know how to think like a horse,” Paradise said. “They have to learn how to be a horse. Racing is not natural. And it can cause stress and ulcers.”
Paradise said a race horse, like a thoroughbred, might not have seen a lot of life other than a barn and a race track. She said they may get startled by a squirrel that runs across their path. Paradise said a race horse should spend a minimum of six months in a care facility like Live and Let Live Farm before being adopted.
While race horses may need more of an adjustment, other pleasure horses need a lot of rehabilitation before they can find a new home. Paradise said typically this process begins with a vet visit and then a stay of a week or two inside an indoor rehabilitation area.
“We give them all the hay they can eat,” Paradise said. “And we don’t stall them. We build round pens so they can walk around a little.”
Paradise said most important is to socialize, socialize and socialize. This is done with other people and other horses. The people are typically volunteers who spend time with the horse and often fall in love and may end up adopting it. The problem is when the economy is poor, people often stop donating both time and money to these rescue organizations. Yet, with a bad economy, many people are losing their homes and are giving up their horses, so there is a greater need for these rescue organizations, according to a representative from the New Hampshire Horse Council.
Another problem is the misconception that people who own horses are rich. Sometimes this is the case, but other times these owners make sacrifices in other areas to pursue their passion of horses. But horses can be expensive and situations can change. That is why Paradise said the adoption process is so thorough and takes months. She wants to make sure the horses are going into the best homes possible. She also looks for owners who already have a horse, so the new horse has a friend.
Many owners tend to be women, according to several sources. One such owner, Ann Poole, rides a former race horse named Sweet MacGregor. Poole recently formed a riding group called the Countryside Trail Riders, which will bring together horse enthusiasts from Hillsborough, Henniker, Deering and Weare.
“Owning a horse was always a lifelong dream,” Poole said. “Finally, I said I wasn’t going to wait any longer.”
Now Sweet MacGregor has a happy home and plenty of exercise. If only all horses could be so lucky.
Locals devise doggie treats
Pups get health and happiness in snack form
By Angel Roy
Yogurt for dogs
Jody Rodgers was taking care of dogs and working at Anheuser-Busch as a biologist until she realized all she needed was dogs and left her job to open The Barking Dog, a boarding, training and grooming center with a resort feel, in Exeter, Hooksett and Derry.
“Corporate America was not a good fit for me, but it was a good learning experience and financially it afforded me the ability to open my own business,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers soon realized she wanted to offer pups a healthier alternative to the routine biscuit.
“Most clients here are looking for something out of the ordinary,” she said.
She considered offering Frosty Paws by Nestle, then looked at the ingredients and decided against it. Upon remembering that many veterinarians recommend yogurt be added into dog food, she took it upon herself to develop a healthy frozen yogurt treat for canines, called “Yoghund,” in 2006.
“Any yogurt is good for dogs, but Yoghund has five or six times the probiotic than other yogurts would,” Rodgers said.
The product is made at a gelato factory in Woburn, Mass.
“All dogs are lactose-intolerant, but like [lactose-intolerant] people, they can have yogurt — the bacteria in the yogurt helps them digest lactose,” Rodgers said.
No sugar or preservatives are added to Yoghund. The product is low in fat and calories and serves as a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.
“It’s really wholesome,” added Pam Dietz, of The Barking Dog. Two varieties of Yoghund are all natural, and the other two are organic. Yoghund comes in four flavors — papaya, blueberry, apple cheddar and peanut butter banana — and taste tests are often held with dogs to try out new combinations. At trade shows, Rodgers said, people are not afraid to take a spoon and try it for themselves.
“It’s just bland,” Rodgers said of the taste. “We’re used to more sugar.”
Veterinarians are now using Yoghund to get dogs to eat after surgery as the product is easy on their digestive system and soothes them mentally and physically, she said.
“It’s a great treat and is especially great for my reputation because dogs leave [The Barking Dog] healthier,” Rodgers said, adding that owners see a decrease in stress, coat, skin and digestive issues in dogs who eat Yoghund. “A healthy dog should have Yoghund; a sick dog should have Yoghund.”
A challenge faced by Rodgers is trying to get her customers to recognize that while Yoghund is a great treat for rewarding pups, it should be given to them regularly.
“There isn’t a dog on the face of the Earth that couldn’t benefit from probiotics. Spending five dollars a week on Yoghund may result in skipping a the trip to the vet,” she said.
Dietz said her pup Tucker-Eugene is such a big fan of Yoghund he is often found waiting in front of the refrigerator.
“He loves the freezer more than me,” she joked.
Yoghund, she added, is a great way to keep dogs busy.
“It’s a good diversion,” Rodgers said. “People can put the cup wherever they want the dog to stay and the dog kind of gets into the zone. I think it’s the combination of the licking and the coldness.”
“There is a lot of science going on, but it is so much fun for them and so much fun to watch the dog eat it,” Dietz added.
PB & bacon biscuits
When Jeanne Sanders brought home Angel, her rescue Australian Shepherd, her friend and neighbor Robin baked up a batch of peanut butter bacon dog biscuits to welcome the new pup. Angel stood on her hind legs, begging for the treats with wide eyes.
That image of Angel now appears on the label of Sanders’ Beggar’s Choice peanut butter bacon dog biscuits, their recipe based on that of Robin’s gift.
“My business was totally founded on kindness,” Sanders said.
Sanders launched her business in her Hill kitchen in spring 2007 after speaking to people who lost their pets following a recall of a contaminated pet food. She had gone home heartbroken and in tears and knew she wanted to make an all-natural treat for dogs.
“I knew I wanted to do what was best for them,” she said. To protect dogs being fed her biscuits, Sanders has created her own tracking system, numbering each package so if there are any questions on the market about products used, she could easily alert her customers. Sanders also sought out the best products to make her biscuits. They are now made with preservative- and nitrate-free bacon from North Country Smokehouse, Teddy’s Peanut Butter, King Arthur Flour and sea kelp for the coat and skin. Among the biscuit’s other ingredients are beef broth, corn meal, eggs, oats, brown sugar, parsley and salt.
“Dogs go crazy for them,” Sanders said.
At farmers markets, Sanders has to keep her husband from snacking on the human-friendly treat.
“I always say, be sure to share these with your dog,” she said.
Sanders said she has been asked to come up with new flavors but thinks she will wait until she can improve the product or hire employees
“This is a sure thing,” she said of her current treats. “I have a good thing going, so why start changing it?”
She is, however, working to develop a softer treat for geriatric dogs and puppies because she thinks there is a need. She also takes dog allergies into considerations and is able to make natural substitutions.
Sanders bakes seven dozen biscuits in her kitchen daily, using a bone-shaped cookie cutter that allows her to cut multiple treats simultaneously, and holds “label lunches” during which friends come over to help package her product.
“My ultimate goal is to have a place where people can come and have a cup of tea and their dogs can snack on biscuits — a social time,” Sanders said.
Sanders makes three sizes of biscuits and a Northwood Series, biscuits cut into a variety of shapes including bears, moose, pine trees, loons and deer. Lobster-shaped biscuits are sold at Digs, Divots and Dogs in Kennebunkport.
Sanders received a letter from former First Lady Laura Bush, who owns a home in Kennebunkport, and presidential pups Barney and Miss Beazley, as Sanders’ sister took the biscuits to the White House when she volunteered in 2008.
“Tell everybody at Beggar’s Choice we said ‘yum,’” the letter read.
Wallabies not allowed
Illegal pets can cause trouble
By Jeff Mucciarone
More than a year ago, a state Fish and Game official spotted a mountain lion in Barnstead. Interesting, given that, according to Fish and Game, there are no sustained populations of mountain lions anywhere near the Granite State. The likely explanation, officials said, was that the big cat was a pet that had been released into the wild.
Illegal pets and exotic pets aren’t necessarily a huge problem in New Hampshire. Though a recent dust-up in Nashua in which a resident owned illegal Quaker parrots has drawn attention, illegal pets do not appear to be a major issue in the state, officials said.
“I can’t say we’ve had a lot of issues,” said Lt. Robert Bryant, of the Fish and Game Enforcement Division.
Florida has seen drastic implications regarding its bird populations and other species because of the Burmese python, a non-native species that has colonized in the state as pets were released. The snakes typically average about 12 feet long. Certain types of monitor lizards have made Florida home as well under similar circumstances.
“You can buy anything on the Internet these days,” Bryant said. A quick Internet search reveals lots of information on owning animals such as Burmese pythons.
Species like that aren’t really concerns here in New Hampshire as neither pythons nor monitor lizards would stand much chance of making it through a winter here. A loose python could be dangerous, sure, but there’s no risk of it colonizing and affecting native animals. That doesn’t mean people aren’t bringing animals like that in.
“In terms of illegal species, exotics that are brought in from the outside, I’m sure it exists; I’m just not sure we always hear about it,” Bryant said.
The vast majority of wildlife that comes from out of state would be illegal in New Hampshire, Bryant said. There are some exceptions, such as the pygmy hedgehog and common sugar gliders, which are a type of marsupial. The state Department of Agriculture also has rules pertaining to obtaining certain species.
In the past five and a half years, Officer Neal Vogler, Manchester’s animal control officer, has had two incidents with illegal animals, and one turned out not to be an illegal pet. In 2007 state law changed and prohibited people from owning crocodiles and alligators. Existing owners were grandfathered in, and in turn, Vogler did field some calls regarding an alligator owner who was actually within his rights to own the reptile.
Other than that, Vogler did respond to a family with a wallaby, which had been imported via the Internet. Vogler, with assistance from Fish and Game, removed the animal and turned it over to the appropriate wildlife organization.
“What’s out there, we don’t know for sure, but calls come in infrequently,” Vogler said, adding Manchester doesn’t have a specific set of its own laws regarding animals; the city follows state laws.
While people bringing illegal pets into the state is probably happening to some extent, what’s likely happening more frequently is people taking wild, native animals in as pets. Bryant said people do take baby animals, such as raccoons, in during the springtime.
“Of course it’s totally illegal,” Bryant said.
There are a few species of reptiles and amphibians that people are allowed to possess, but taking wild animals isn’t allowed.
When an animal that has been taken out of the wild is discovered in someone’s possession, officials take the animal away and send it to a rehab professional. From there, the animal may be sent to an exhibitor or to another rehab organization. Depending on the species and how long it had been in a domestic environment, it’s unlikely the animal can be released again into the wild, Bryant said, adding raccoons seem to be the marquee species people take into their homes.
Once an animal has been possessed, especially a young one, it’s imprinted, Bryant said.
“The ability to release it back into the wild is pretty much taken away at that point,” Bryant said.
If it’s a prohibited species, state officials will try to get the owner to find a new home for the animal in a state where it is legal.
With any mammal, people run the risk of rabies exposure. And baby animals do get rabies as well. There are high-risk and low-risk animals when it comes to rabies, but any mammal can get rabies, Bryant said.
The state puts out releases and information in the spring in hopes of avoiding as many situations as possible where people take animals in. Often times, people take in an animal they have determined has been orphaned — their intentions are good. But, more often than not, the mother is in the area, Bryant said.
Vogler hasn’t seen Manchester residents taking in wild animals as pets. More often, he responds to situations where wild animals are coming into close a contact with people. Maybe raccoons are getting into people’s trash or skunks are making their home under a shed. Uncovered trash in alleyways can be particularly enticing for raccoons.
A lot of times people buy a pet that’s cute and cuddly when it’s a baby, but when it gets older, it loses the cuteness and gets larger and stronger. In the case of a mountain lion, the cats can grow to more than 200 pounds of muscle and their fangs are more than formidable. But even smaller animals, like raccoons, are fun and cute when they’re babies, but they can display a nasty temperament when they grow up.
In determining illegal animals, the state has to consider whether an animal poses a threat to native species if released or whether there is a threat of disease spreading. In the case of the Quaker parrots, officials said in reports the birds could become a problem if they were released into the wild.
If you have questions about the legality of a particular species, call the Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division at 271-3127.