23 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 99.
“We are going to have to change the laws if we are going to solve this problem,” commented Carole Baskin regarding the trade and ownership of exotic pet animals. In addition to being a controversial animal rights activist, Baskin is also one of the most disliked characters from Netflix’s hit miniseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. In March 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix released a fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) series that allowed its viewers a glimpse into the bizarre world of exotic animal ownership. While the show focused on the interactions between different owners of exotic animals, the show’s main characters—the animals—were mostly ignored.
Like in Tiger King, exotic animals tend to become secondary characters in the business of exotic pet trading. The two main players in exotic pet trading are those who argue that exotic animal trading should be “none of the government’s concern” and those who strongly believe that exotic animal trading is “ethically wrong.” The conflict between these two polarized views reflects the greater national divide regarding the treatment and regulation of exotic pet ownership. Legally, the trading of exotic pets is an issue of private property possession clashing with state governments’ police power to regulate “nuisance, public health, and public safety.”