The practice of keeping wild animals - such as lions, tigers, elephants, wolves, alligators and huge snakes, as pets can be traced back to ancient times wherein keeping such wild pets was considered a status symbol amongst the rich. While the practice continues even today, it is no more restricted to the rich as it was back then.
Illegal trade, backyard breeding and auction of exotic animals has made it a lot easy to keep them as pets. From spiders and scorpions to considerably large primates and even some big cats, the list of wild animals sought by pet enthusiasts is quite lengthy.
Why Wild Animals Don't Make Good Pets?
Wild animals are species whose behavior is such that they cannot co-exist with humans, and that definition in itself is one of the reasons as to why you should refrain from keeping them as pets. It is very difficult to care for these animals as their basic requirements in terms of food, habitat or other attributes of their life, are quite high.
It doesn't take much time for the adorable young ones of these wild species to grow into large and strong adults. With the instinctive behavioral traits - such as biting and scratching, they can easily end up unintendedly harming humans. There have been several instances of captive bred wild animals attacking their owners or unleashing havoc in the vicinity.
Even animals which are not large in size can demonstrate destructive behavior at times. While monkeys are most sought after wild pets, you get to see a drastic change in their behavior as they start growing. In fact, they don't even hesitate from biting you when they feel threatened.
Yet another reason to refrain from keeping wild animals as pets is their tendency to carry various zoonotic diseases i.e. those animal diseases which can be transferred to humans. Diseases like rabies, salmonella, monkey pox, marburg virus, klebsiella, etc., which these animals carry are life-threatening for human beings.
Salmonella affects thousands of people in the United States alone every year when people come in contact with reptiles and amphibians which act as carriers for this bacteria. It is estimated that somewhere around 80-90 percent of the reptiles act as carriers for salmonella, thus putting humans who choose these reptiles as pets at a serious health risk.
It is very difficult to determine if some reptile is carrying this bacterium as these reptiles do not show any symptoms. Similarly, herpes B is quite common in pet macaques and rabies is common in foxes, skunks, raccoons, etc. While all these diseases hurt humans, improper care of this species - especially the young ones, can end up hurting these animals.
The practice has been under the scanner for legal and ethical issues surrounding it for quite some time now. Even the federal laws, which do very little to restrict or prohibit private possession of wild animals, have been subjected to a great deal of criticism by animal welfare groups and wildlife enthusiasts alike.
While the Animal Welfare Act(AWA) puts restriction on possession of warm-blooded animals, it does nothing to keep reptiles off human radar. Other laws which protect animals from such cruelty such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES) and the Endangered Species Act(ESA) exist, but they aren't of much help.
While some jurisdictions allow people to keep wild species as their pets under stipulated guidelines, others have put a total ban on this practice. There also exist others which have no rules and regulations on wild pets whatsoever.
In the US, it is illegal to keep wild animals in states like Alaska, Georgia, California etc., but the same can be done with permit from the authorities in states like Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, etc. (Note: This is just a general outline of laws on keeping wild and exotic animals as pets, for details on the same you need to contact your state authorities.)
If the pros and cons of keeping wild animals as pets are pitched against each other, the cons of this practice easily outweigh its pros. When people keep wild animals as their pets, it is not for companionship as in case of domesticated animals, but for display - which in itself is ethically incorrect.
More importantly, we need to understand that domesticated species - unlike their wild counterparts, have evolved over the course of thousands of years to become what they are today. Wild animals will stick to their basic instincts even if you keep them in your home.
PS: Most important of all is the fact that capturing wild animals and keeping them as pets tends to disrupt the balance in the ecosystem as the decline in number of one species has adverse effects on a number of other species dependent on it.