I have often wondered how I would have handled it if my child had been allergic to animals. Having grown up on a farm, I find a life without animals to seem rather absurd and almost unnatural. Today we have two cats and two rats, and we also nanny some dogs now and then. In my opinion, the positive effects of having pets are indisputable.
So what if? I know some adults whose parents made them dislike the animals instead of dealing with their children being sad that they could not have any pets, or because they had to settle for a goldfish. I even know people who are now afraid of certain animals because their parents scared them into not wanting any.
I would get a lizard, preferably a Bearded Dragon, for my girl if she were allergic to cats. Oh wait … I couldn’t do that, at least not legally. Obtaining an illegal pet would be selfish, because if it got sick or just needed a checkup, there would be nowhere to go, unless I knew someone willing to treat it without turning it over to the police and thereby effectively killing it.
The list of animals legal in Norway is short. Dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, cage birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice, chinchillas, turtles, mini pigs, tarantulas, and goldfish. That’s it. No reptiles or amphibians at all. The turtle is allowed only in special cases, when applied for with a doctor’s documentation of allergies. The spider is only the one particular kind as far as I know, and the birds are a topic of discussion because of questions about animal cruelty. Many dog and cat breeds are illegal due to racial profiling. Exotic animals have been banned since 1978.
It´s also illegal to take in wild animals. This I can understand, but if you find a hurt animal you can save … they rather that you don’t, that you let “nature take its course” or call it in so that someone can come to put it down. I have read several articles about people connected to the board that handles these cases; they threaten to turn people in to the police for helping hurt animals and for nurturing them back to health before releasing them into the wild again. But according to paragraph 4 in the animal welfare act, you do have a duty to help animals in distress if you are capable. Up until recently (!) many people have been stuck with the vet bill when they did the right thing. Luckily, the government added a paragraph: “Necessary expenses for action under this Section shall be covered by the state, but the expenses related to helping domestic animals may be recovered from the animal keeper or the owner.” And thanks to the SPCA, the correct information is out there. Sadly, most people are still afraid to get stuck with the bill or are quick to take the easy solution.
But, back to the short list. In 2013 Food Safety Authority (FDA Norwegian edition) sent a list of twenty animals they saw no reason to keep illegal to the Department of Agriculture. The said department commissioned this list. Today Norway and Iceland are the only countries in Europe with total restriction on reptiles and amphibians. But despite this, there is an estimate of 150,000 of them.
Adults and kids all over the country were so happy when the news of the list hit the media. Imagine, the households with allergies finally being able to keep a pet who would live more than a few years or one that they could pet and play with and not just stare at while it went around and around in a bowl. But what happened?
The Minister of Agriculture said no.
He would, and I quote, “rather have a cuddly cat on the couch than a constrictor around the neck.” It’s almost unbelievable that even after all the work putting the list together, on their commission, he turns it down—just like that. He said he was thinking of the animals’ welfare when he turned it down and claimed it requires a significant amount of skill to see how a snake is doing compared to a cat or a dog. “They don’t show signs of fear or stress.” This, of course, is complete bullshit. He continued his statement by making clear that all who hold illegal pets in the country should have them put down. This all while showing clear signs of fear himself, being interviewed at the reptile park in Oslo with a snake around his neck.
So all the kids with allergies, all the kids who love snakes and lizards, and of course all the adults too were let down by this man. They spent the taxpayers’ money on the report and the work to get the list just to throw it out the window.
Next month a traveling exhibition with live snakes will be coming to town, and everybody is talking about it. I´m so fortunate that I will be assistant snake wrangler while they stay at the museum. There will be a lot of happy children being able to pet the snakes and learn about these magnificent animals. I wanted to share this because even though our country is thriving, and the economy is booming, all it takes is one frightened little politician to ruin it for everybody.
Featured image credit me2030581
I did not know that about Norway and Iceland. Interesting, though I suppose frustrating for quite a few people. I myself have three leopard geckos and recommend them for children over the age of 8 or so quite frequently, because they are rather easy to keep, good for learning to regularly take care of an animal without risking a dead animal just because they didn’t get fresh water one day. And while you can’t see whether they feel their terrarium is big enough (but it’s really easy to find out what’s appropriate there) , you can totally see whether they are afraid or sick. I don’t get that reasoning at all – it could just as well apply to goldfish.
It’s nice that they are watching out for animal welfare, but a blanket ban on so many animals seems misguided.