Students from the Veterinary Assisting and Animal Science and Management programs at Great Oaks Career Campuses gathered this week to hear Tim Harrison, former Ohio police officer and current director of Outreach for Animals, discuss the problem of privately-kept exotic animals and the danger they can pose to their owners and the community.
Harrison, who has appeared on Oprah, Fox News, and CNN and in National Geographic, showed video and discussed cases in which large animals were rescued from homes. He and his colleagues recently removed six cougars from a house. “Imagine if there had been a fire at that house, and firefighters came to the home not knowing that these cougars were there and were scared.”
Harrison has seen it all—cougars, tigers, lions, pythons, African porcupines, and even an elephant in a living room, from which the award-winning documentary “The Elephant in the Living Room” takes its title. Exotic animals are legal to keep privately in some states, and Harrison estimates that there are about 3,400 tigers living with families in Texas. That’s more than double the number of tigers living in the wild in India.
He has been coming to speak with Great Oaks students since 2011, when he was originally contacted by Diamond Oaks Veterinary Assisting instructor Tamara Kuhel. “I heard about him and asked him to visit, because it’s important for our students to understand the issues,” she said. “We incorporate his information into our lesson plans.” Kuhel noted that the problem of privately-kept exotic animals includes issues of ethics and healthcare of the animals as well as safety for the owners.
The students had the chance to speak with Harrison individually afterward, and the Diamond Oaks chapter of FFA presented Harrison with a $300 donation to Outreach for Animals.