The animal next door - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

The animal next door

By Dan Wells – bio | email

(FOX19) - There is a rising trend of people raising exotic pets - snakes, bears and even tigers - that you may not even realize are living right next door.

Mike Webber and Tim Harrison are on the front lines of this wild battleground, going into home after home and capturing exotic animals, filming a documentary called "The Elephant in the Living Room."

"I have nightmares of the dead people I've seen constricted to death by pythons," said Harrison. "I have nightmares of seeing big cats put down by veterinarians."

Webber is the movie maker, and Harrison is in the guy capturing the tigers in your basement, alligators in your front yard and killer snakes in your walls.

"The biggest snake I ever caught in America was a 16 foot Burmese python," said Harrison. "Of course it was somebody's pet that got loose."

According to Born Free, a web site that tracks captive animal attacks in the past ten years, there has been more than 1,300 exotic attacks, many in neighborhoods just like yours.

Neighborhoods are filled with garages that have kids playing for hours with what they think is just a pet snake, but it isn't.

"That ain't no python," said Harrison. "So I moved the trash can back and I looked at it and it was a Gabon viper from Africa. One of the most dangerous snakes in the world."

Families are bringing their pet lion cub along for a ride. It's precious until the predator matures and has to be caged up in a horse trailer.

"If she comes around get up quick come over and make sure it's neck goes on the inside," said Harrison. "Her paws on the outside. Grab her head. Get as much fur as possible and keep those teeth away from you."

Outsiders are not welcome in this secret society.

"Nobody will let you in. No one will talk to you," said Webber. "I was chased out of states. I was chased out of cities."

A woman's house had a huge pet boa in the walls for 28 days until somebody called Harrison.

"You can imagine that elderly woman trying to sleep every night knowing there is a boa constrictor in her wall," said Harrison.

The Elephant in the Living Room takes you to the under belly of America that's also cashing in on exotic animals. It's big business.

"The film takes no sides," said Harrison "It goes right down the middle and you make your own mind up."

Right now, there are 10,000 tigers in the Unites States. You will find 10 percent of them at accredited zoos like the Cincinnati Zoo, which means we have no idea where the other 9,000 tigers are.

So after seeing this movie, it makes you wonder what kind of pet your crazy neighbor on the corner really has in his or her basement.

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