Movie Review: The Elephant in the Living Room

Hi again!

Married to a veterinarian for the last decade, I’ve gained some perspective on the family pet in recent years. It may sound harsh, but some people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets. And I’m not just talking about people running puppy mills. Some folks simply treat their animals as nothing more than something to kick around the house and neglect for days on end instead of as living, breathing creatures deserving love and attention.

That said, there’s a huge difference between your average domestic dog or cat and having a python bigger than the tallest player in the NBA in the same house with you and your kids. For some reason, we’ve lost the fear and respect we should have of wild (not domesticated) creatures in close proximity. Why people, whether famous like boxer Mike Tyson or the average guy next door, would consider a leopard, puma, or tiger to be safe to keep as a pet is beyond me. I understand loving animals, but especially when children are involved you have to use some common sense.

A new documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room from director Michael Webber, hopes to cover the issue from a variety of perspectives. I was worried it would, as many unbalanced documentaries do, focus entirely on one side of the issue or the other, but instead we end up with a fairly even approach and are allowed to come to our own conclusions.

In the middle there’s Tim Harrison, a retired public safety officer (cop, paramedic, fireman all rolled into one), who has been on both sides of the fence – raising one of these wild animals at home when he was younger and trying to help both animals and owners deal with situations wildly out of control on the streets and highways of major populated areas.

On one side is owner Terry Brumfield, who owns two African lions on his property – one of which escapes and terrorizes people on an interstate highway attacking cars. A truck driver still recovering from an accident years earlier, Brumfield loves his lions and tries to do right by them. But he’s unwilling to give them up even after the lion escapes and is brought back unharmed. It’s obvious he’s conflicted and has a big heart, but is it really safe or in the animals’ best interest to be kept locked up in tiny cages?

And on the other extreme we have an ER doctor shocked at the stupidity of some owners almost killed by their exotic pets. Politicians at the local, state, and national levels wondering why anybody needs to own a pet that could not only hurt or kill the owner and any immediate family or friends but could escape and hurt or kill innocent people caught in the way.

In the last couple of years, we have visited a local animal sanctuary near our home for exotic cats. Serenity Springs is home to more than 100 different big cats – lions, tigers, cougars, and more. They do their best to provide a safe, happy environment for rescued animals in their care that come from animal trainers who use them in film and TV productions to casino acts and private owners. It’s heartbreaking to hear some of the stories of those animals. But these are the folks who often have to save the day when exotic pets get out of control.

If you are an animal lover, I definitely encourage you to find The Elephant in the Living Room on a movie screen near you this month. Check here for a list of theaters across the country showing the film in April 2011. Whether you believe in responsible ownership of exotic pets or that they’re a menace, the film brings up some shocking facts and stories to ponder further.

For more details about the film, check out its website at TheElephantInTheLivingRoom.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Sneak Peek: Discovery’s Wild Animal Repo

Hi there!

Though I’ve been married to a veterinarian for the last ten years, I was an animal lover and pet owner long before that. And I’ve always had a soft spot for abused animals. But far too often we find ourselves not hearing about the most serious cases until it’s too late. However, when you go visit places such as the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center in Calhan, CO, which focuses on rescuing big cats such as lions and tigers, or places such as the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, CO, which focuses on giving a good home to wolves and other animals who can’t survive in the wild, you hear some of the stories of how these animals came to be in their care… and it breaks your heart to think of wild animals abused in such a way.

The trick is that you have to go to these places to hear these tales of abuse and neglect. Far too often we don’t hear about them until conditions reach tragic levels and we never hear about the positive stories of rescues that might not have survived otherwise. So I’m very excited about the new show on the Discovery Channel that’s airing a sneak peak on Sunday, January 16 at 9pm ET/PT – Wild Animal Repo.

“Repo” is a strange concept when applied to something other than a car or house, but whatever you call these people, they deserve our respect and admiration for going into tough conditions and saving these critters.

Here’s some info from a recent press release:

“Scott Lope is one of America’s premier exotic animal reposessors. He rescues extraordinary and endangered creatures from unfit owners, illegal trade and harmful environments. No animal is too dangerous or too insignificant for Scott, as he and his team recover tigers, bears, monkeys, wolves and many more, all with the goal of finding them a worthy home.

On Sunday, January 16 at 9PM ET/PT, Discovery Channel fans will get a sneak peek of WILD ANIMAL REPO as Scott heads to Texas to rescue 22 bears from a suspected illegal bear breeding facility. The bears resist the process, as do the animals’ disgruntled owners. Then, zookeepers are packing up before the small roadside zoo is demolished. But first, they need to relocate 25 Capuchin monkeys. Scott takes on the job, but the monkeys quickly learn his tactics, making the rescue even more challenging. Later, Scott is tasked with saving six tigers from a facility that is not properly protected, and risks the safety of the tigers and local citizens. He enlists the help of tiger experts, but can they move the giant cats that are multiple times their size and strength?”

And here are three clips from the show that illustrate some of the places Scott and his team have to go into…

Be sure and watch Wild Animal Repo on Sunday, January 16 at 9PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel!

–Fitz

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Book Review: The Tiniest Tiger, Joanne McGonagle

Hi all!

The Tiniest Tiger (book cover), Joanne L. McGonagleI recently had the great opportunity to read a new children’s book from Joanne L. McGonagle. The Tiniest Tiger documents a lost kitten’s journey through the zoo, talking with the other big cats there and attempting to find a place to call home.

As the author and illustrator of this book, McGonagle has created an amazing story that not only entertains, but educates young ones about some of the endangered big cat species around the world. Each time the kitten visits a new cage or habitat in the zoo, she sees a sign that documents the average size and weight of the animal, their status on the endangered species list, life span (in the wild and in captivity), and where the animal is originally from on a map.

Animals included are:

  • Tigers
  • Lions
  • Cheetahs
  • Clouded Leopards
  • Puma
  • Jaguar
  • Bobcats
  • and Ocelots

This captivating tale had my two daughters (ages 7 and 3) and my wife (a veterinarian) listening intently as the kitten tried to find a home. (Spoiler Alert: She does eventually find a home! 🙂 )

To be honest, I felt there were a couple of language issues in the book where the text didn’t quite flow, but overall the writing was great. And the illustrations were amazing.

This is a book that should find its way into homes with children, school libraries, and your public library without batting an eye.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you find any great books!

–Fitz