March 14, 2011
The Elephant in the Living Room
Exotic Pet Documentary Wows Audiences Across the Country
Director Michael Webber's "The Elephant in the Living Room" examines the startling American epidemic of keeping exotic and dangerous animals as household pets. Centered around the eye-opening day-to-day work of Tim Harrison, a police officer and one-man exotic animal rescuer, "The Elephant in the Living Room" provides a fascinating window into the dangerous world of pet tigers, lions, bears, chimpanzees, and lethal snakes, in which both animals and people are at risk.
One of Tim's biggest cases throughout the film is Terry Brumfield, the proud owner of two African lions living in his Ohio home. Terry no doubt loves his animals with all his heart, but Tim must try his hardest to convince Terry that these animals belong in the wild before it is too late.
Along with The HSUS's Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) Grant, "The Elephant in the Living Room" has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Documentary at The 25th Anniversary Genesis Awards.
This compelling documentary was released in theaters across the U.S. in April 2011. "People who see this documentary are amazed at the extent of the problem, both from a public safety standpoint and an animal welfare perspective," says Michael Webber, writer and director of the film. "It is shocking for people to learn that in many areas of the country, it is perfectly legal to keep a pet African lion or deadly cobra or chimpanzee in your home. This seems to raise a lot of questions in audiences' minds, causing them to want to know what they can do to help."
One area of the country where exotic animal regulations are particularly lenient, and where "The Elephant in the Living Room" has served as a significant wake-up call, is Tim Harrison's home state of Ohio. In fact, moviegoers inspired by the documentary have been able to turn their new awareness into action by helping urge lawmakers to regulate exotic pet ownership in the state.
On April 1, 2011 "The Elephant in the Living Room" had its Hollywood premiere, featuring a Q&A with Mike Webber and Tim Harrison. The audience was also treated to a special appearance by actress/animal advocate Tippi Hedren, who spoke about the film and the exotic pet epidemic. As the film opened wide in cities throughout the U.S., it was greeted with glowing reviews and served as a powerful eye-opener on a particularly troubling subject.
"This documentary exemplifies what the ACE Grant is all about," says Jonny Vasic, program director of ACE. "It represents the perfect alliance of engaging filmmaking and advocacy at work." The Humane Society of the United States and its ACE Program are happy to see "The Elephant in the Living Room" reach a wide audience and help show that wild animals truly belong in the wild.