Why You Should Never Release Pets Into the Wild

This post first appeared on Care2.com

While it’s illegal to release non-native species into the wild, many pet owners who no longer want their pets will turn them loose. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is both cruel and bad for the environment. Domestic rabbits, ferrets, rats and mice and aquarium fish have all been released to fend for themselves — often leading to either their death or disastrous environmental consequences.

The release of exotic pets in Florida is such a huge problem that the Department of Fish Game and Wildlife created an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day where pet owners can surrender unwanted pets without penalty.

Here’s a list of popular pets that people often consider releasing into the wild and why they shouldn’t: 


There’s a common misconception that domesticated ferrets are wild animals and can fend for themselves if turned loose. That’s not true. According to the American Ferret Association, Inc., ferrets were domesticated by humans as early as 63 BCE and shouldn’t be confused with the black-footed wild ferret. If a domesticated ferret is turned loose into the wild he or she will rarely survive more than a few days.

What to do instead: Reach out to a local shelter to see if it will accept and rehome your ferret. The Ferrets Rescue Shelter Directory provides a global list of shelters and rescues dedicated to finding new homes for ferrets.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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Not Every Pet Enjoys Living in a Classroom: Here’s What You Should Know

This post first appeared on Care2.com.

Certified Humane Educator Doriane Lucia has fond memories of caring for pets in the classroom. In fact, she credits classroom fish and a caring fifth-grade teacher with fostering her love and compassion for animals.

“This experience was huge for me. I didn’t know years later this would become my life’s mission, but even if it hadn’t, it would still have taught me responsibility,” said Lucia, who received her Master’s degree in Humane Education from Cambridge College in Boston, Mass. and The Institute for Humane Education, and is a member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators.

When the Pet Care Trust began offering Pets in the Classroom grants in 2011, more than 500 teachers nationwide applied. Today, the grant program has issued close to 40,000 grants with an average of 50 students being impacted per grant. The grants are offered to public school, kindergarten through sixth-grade classes, and are intended to support pets or aquariums in the classroom.

A classroom pet can be fun and exciting for schoolchildren, but it also has real educational, leadership and character-building value, according to a 2015 studypublished by the American Humane Association (AHA). According to the AHA study, the most popular classroom pets were fish followed by guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons and leopard geckos. Several teachers who responded to the survey said that they had more than one classroom pet, such as a “rabbit, hamster, fish, two turtles,” “fish and lizards,” and “Beta Fish and Dwarf Frogs.”

Bearded dragons made the list of popular classroom pets in an American Humane Association study.

Image credit: milkfactory via Flickr

Thinking about Bringing Home a Pocket Pet? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Did you know that guinea pigs can be extremely friendly and talkative? They squeak in delight at mealtimes and have been known to purr when petted. Hamsters are equally as entertaining and enjoy nesting, storing food and running around inside a ball. And while each hamster has a unique personality, they are all curious and share a love of exploring.

These two species top the list of the most popular small pets commonly referred to as pocket pets. Other animals that fall into this category are gerbils, mice, rats, and chinchillas. While the ancestors of these species were wild, animal welfare groups work hard to remind families that pocket pets are captive bred and cannot survive on their own in the wild. They are completely dependent on humans for food, care, company, and protection.

Experts at the North Jersey Guinea Pig and Hamster Rescue Inc., say that prior to adopting a small pet, families need to do lots of research. For instance, it’s important to know that guinea pigs can get sick if their diet doesn’t include fresh vegetables and Vitamin C. And hamsters are nocturnal and will need exercise and interaction at night.

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