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Fad Pets, Sad Pets

Find Dory on the big screen, not in your fish tank

Kind News magazine, Oct/Nov 2016

The popularity of the movie Finding Dory has scientists worried that royal blue tangs and their ocean habitat, including quickly disappearing coral reefs, will be at greater risk. Photo by Roberto Nistri/Alamy Stock Photo

It's hard to walk into a store these days without seeing the adorable and forgetful star of Disney/Pixar's film, Finding Dory smiling back at you. Toys, games, books, t-shirts, lunch boxes—you name it, Dory is everywhere. Many kids will put these items on their holiday wish list. But one thing that should be left off that list is a real live Dory.

It's happened many times in the past. A box-office hit or clever commercial turns an animal into a star and suddenly everyone wants one. It becomes a fad. But the definition of a "fad" is something that is only popular for a short time.

Animal shelters have taken in thousands of animals who became instantly popular, and then just as suddenly were unwanted. They include certain dog breeds, rabbits, potbellied pigs, and wildlife like turtles, snakes, lizards—and fishes.

When Finding Nemo was released in 2003, clownfish became a must-have pet and millions of people rushed out to buy them. But like with other fad animals, people soon realized that they weren't prepared to care for them properly. As a result, many of the fish died.

Ocean home

That has scientists like The HSUS's Jonathan Balcombe worried. Dory is a kind of fish called a royal blue tang, explains Balcombe. Blue tangs live around coral reefs. Often the way they're caught causes harm to fishes, corals and other animals. It's also harmful to their ocean habitats.

People may not realize the special care that blue tangs need—or how big they get. A blue tang may be only 1-2 inches long when purchased but can be 12 inches long when full-grown. That means the fish would need a tank three times larger than the average home fish tank—about the size of a couch!

So before you add a Dory look-alike to your wish list, remember this: Movies last only an hour or two, but pets are for life. If you're looking for a great pet, visit an animal shelter. Let fishes like Dory continue to swim in the ocean where they belong.

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