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Dangerous Exotic Pets: Bears

Private ownership of bears is bad for the animals and unsafe for the public

  • Many pet bears end up like this bear in Ohio, confined to a tiny cage in a backyard.

  • Several pet bears share this undersized, muddy enclosure.

  • Bears belong in the wild—not kept as pets in basements, backyards, or barren enclosures.

Intelligent, strong, and highly active, bears in the pet trade endure significant suffering. Bears are one of the most challenging species to keep in captivity, often developing neurotic behaviors. Even those captive-bred and bottle-raised are capable of killing people or inflicting serious injuries.

Threats to bears

Many facilities and private owners fail to provide bears with their basic needs, such as spacious enclosures, opportunities to explore, dig, forage, swim, and climb, and appropriate daily and seasonal husbandry as well as environmental enrichment and veterinary care. In these sensory-deprived environments, bears commonly develop stereotypic behaviors, such as pacing, an indicator of poor welfare. More on bear welfare »

Threats to public safety

Bears have powerful jaws and claws and can easily kill a person in a sudden attack or bite off fingers and arms. In one highly publicized incident in Ohio, a young man died after sustaining more than 600 wounds when attacked by a single bear at a private menagerie. Since 1990, five people have been killed and more than 40 others—including 10 children—have been injured, and sometimes left permanently disabled, by attacks from captive bears in the United States. List of bear attacks »

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