Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler September 27, 2016

exotic animal injuries

In August 2016, a 10-foot king cobra similar to the one pictured above escaped from its’ owner’s home in Fort Bend County, TX alarming the nearby community. – Photo by nattanan726 (iStock by Getty Images)

Cities across Texas have “leash laws,” which means owners of pets such as dogs must keep them enclosed within a fence or dwelling or restrained by a leash if in public spaces. Though disregarded by far too many people, these laws help protect innocent persons from dog bites.

But what about exotic animals such as large snakes or jungle cats? Exotic animal injuries can occur too. Do they involve some form of leash laws as well?

Exotic Animal Laws, Tragedies

In Texas, persons can legally own wild animals such as bears, primates, venomous snakes, tigers and other large cats as long as they acquire a license for ownership and can prove the animal will be cared for and confined safely. However, cities such as Houston have exotic animal laws making it illegal to own large, dangerous creatures inside the city limits.

Even so, an ABC News report indicates Texas has the world’s second largest tiger population to India, with around 2,000 of the animals. And just as in the jungle, tigers still kill, even when kept as “pets.”

In Yorktown, Texas, a man took his stepdaughter, 10, into a cage holding a tiger, and the animal attacked and killed her. Another Texas tiger bit off the arm of a 3-year-old boy when he came too close to its cage.

Exotic Pets Are Dangerous

You may wonder why anyone would want to own a dangerous wild animal. Yet according to National Geographic, more tigers are kept as pets than exist in the wild. And such exotic pets can be dangerous, given their natural inclinations to hunt and kill for food.

National Geographic reports that the following exotic animal deaths and injuries are on record when such animals were kept as pets:

  • Big cats: 164 injuries and 21 deaths
  • Bears: 28 injuries and 4 deaths
  • Elephants: 52 injuries and 14 deaths
  • Marine animals: 9 injuries and 2 deaths
  • Primates: 129 injuries and no deaths
  • Reptiles: 103 injuries and 19 deaths

The Humane Society of the United States also reports that keeping wild and exotic animals as pets “threatens public health and safety as well as animal welfare.

“Wild animals can attack and spread disease, and the average pet owner cannot provide the care they need in captivity,” the Humane Society said. “From tigers to bears to chimpanzees, these are dangerous wild animals—and in some states it’s perfectly legal to keep one as a pet.”

In Texas, the state’s Health and Safety Code holds that: “A person may not own, harbor, or have custody or control of a dangerous wild animal for any purpose unless the person holds a certificate of registration for that animal issued by an animal registration agency.”

All right. So a permit is needed. But what about insurance in the event of an exotic animal injury?

Texas laws also holds that: “An owner of a dangerous wild animal shall maintain liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $100,000 for each occurrence for liability for damages for destruction of or damage to property and death or bodily injury to a person caused by the dangerous wild animal.”

All right. But what about victims’ rights?

Texas law also holds that any person harmed or threatened with harm by a violation of the law’s subchapter “may sue an owner of a dangerous wild animal.”

All right. But what if enforcement of such laws is lax and contributes to dangerous incidents?

King Cobra Escapes in Texas

In late August of 2016, a venomous 10-foot king cobra escaped from a room inside a barn at the home of its 21-year-old owner in Fort Bend County, Texas, alarming residents and school children in Needville until the animal was found.

The owner had an exotic reptile permit for that snake and over 20 other poisonous snakes. Yet despite the danger unleashed, local police said he likely wouldn’t face any charges or have his permit revoked.

Heck, he even can sell the snakes to other people if he wishes.

Exotic Animal Injury Lawsuit

Even so, that permit can’t protect owners if someone is injured or killed by an exotic animal due to their negligence. In such a case, a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against the exotic animal owner whose responsibility was to keep the public safe from the dangerous animal.

If your family has been victimized by an exotic animal, contact Jim Adler & Associates to explore your legal rights and remedies, starting with a free case review.

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