Capybaras, which are native to Brazil and Panama, may be seen as many as nothing more than oversized rodents, and therefore unsuitable for keeping as a pet. In fact, some even hunt them for the purposes of eating their meat. However, Tom Harford Columbia wants you to know that Capybaras can be amazing pets, as long as you’re able to properly care for them.
Right off the bat, there’s one important thing Tom Harford Columbia wants to make clear: if you think you’re going to begin caring for a capybara, you’re mistaken: you’re going to be caring for at least two! Capybaras are social animals by nature, much like guinea pigs, and need at least one companion that they can communicate with. Without a friend to keep your capybara company, they can become increasingly agitated, depressed, and lethargic.
Be careful, Tom Harford Columbia warns, if you’re keeping two males in the same enclosure, however. Fights may break out and they may act aggressively toward each other. One way to try combating this is by increasing the size of their enclosure; more space to move around in means less of a chance of your capybaras challenging each other for more personal space.
In the wild, you may see a capybara covering itself in mud. This is to regulate their temperature since they have a minimal amount of sweat glands, and are highly susceptible to overheating and sunburn. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re keeping them as pets-that is, you won’t have to provide them with a healthy supply of mud, thankfully-just try to make sure that you’re keeping them in a comfortably cool location where they’re not in danger of overheating.
One thing you will have to provide your capybaras with, Tom Harford Columbia notes, is a small pool of water. This should be at least 3 feet deep to give them room to swim and wade. Note that capybaras teeth grow constantly, like a woodchuck. This is an adaptation that has evolved due to their constant wearing down of their teeth: capybaras grind their teeth by moving their jaw from side to side due to the shape of their skull. When it comes to feeding your capybaras, make sure they have a supply of fresh water, guinea pig pellets, and high-quality grass hay. The guinea pig pellets are an essential part of a capybara’s diet, as they can not naturally produce vitamin C.
One last important thing to consider before attempting to raise capybaras, Tom Harford Columbia advises: check and make sure it’s legal to own one in your state! It’s illegal in many states and only legal in a handful. Even of those states where it is legal to own capybaras, you may need a special license in order to keep exotic pets.
At first glance, taking in a raccoon as a pet might seem like an odd choice. At a second and third glance and beyond, your opinion is unlikely to change, but raccoons can actually make fantastic pets, Tom Harford Columbia tells us, as long as—as with any other animal you’d keep as a pet—you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to properly take care of them.
Taking care of a raccoon is definitely not a task for beginners. If you’re going to make the leap into raccoon care, says Tom Harford Columbia, you’re going to want to make sure you already understand and are skilled in some fundamentals about taking care of animals. Nothing beyond research and actual experience will adequately prepare you for keeping a raccoon as a pet.
Raccoons’ faces accurately reflect their moods according to Tom Harford Columbia: they can range from adorable to terrifying. Raccoons are intelligent, and will happily play with their owners and even become trained to use the litter box. Their personality has been compared to a large ferret or a puppy, and can even learn to understand basic commands. Tom Harford Columbia warns us, however, that raccoons can be unpredictable as a result of this intelligence, and are prone to destroying their owners’ property.
If you’ve ever seen a wild raccoon, you already know they have the potential to become extremely obese. This is a result of raccoons eating anything and everything they can get their hands on, which could actually make your life easier when it comes to feeding them, states Tom Harford Columbia. Just be careful about overfeeding them: you’ll want your raccoon to stick to a healthy diet just like any other pet (or yourself). Raccoons have a unique eating habit that makes mealtime a little messier than normal: they like to dunk their food into water before eating it. Because of this, you’ll have to change out their water for a fresh, clean bowl more often than you would for other pets. Tom Harford Columbia also suggests putting down towels or something else to absorb the water that will undoubtedly get splashed around every time they’re ready to chow down.
Tom Harford Columbia wants to be sure that if you’re planning on keeping a raccoon as a pet, you’re aware of the following: raccoons are considered carriers of rabies, and no current rabies vaccine is considered an effective treatment or preventative measure for raccoons specifically. What this means for you is that if authorities become aware that your raccoon has bitten someone—or, potentially even just licked or drooled on them—they would be fully within their rights to take your pet raccoon away for euthanization in order to test it for rabies.
Taking care of a raccoon is exhausting, hard work. They are wild animals, after all, Tom Harford Columbia reminds us. If you find yourself in the position where you need to care for one, make sure you do as much research as you possibly can in order to give your raccoon the best possible care it can receive.
Fennec foxes may seem like an extremely tempting pet to procure for yourself for a variety of reasons. They’re tiny and cute with giant ears, healthy coats of fur, and can be kept in a domestic setting as other pets are. However, just because they can be kept in a domestic setting, Tom Harford Columbia warns, does not mean fennecs are domesticated. They’re still considered wild animals, and as such, require an extreme amount of care and attention to properly watch over.
The first step, Tom Harford Columbia suggests to anyone considering adopting a fennec fox, is to research the legality of keeping one wherever you live. You’ll need a permit or license in Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas. If you live in Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, or Washington, you’re out of luck: fennec foxes are illegal to own in these states.
Assuming you live in a state where caring for a fennec is legal, you’ve still got your work cut out for you. Fennec foxes require almost constant attention due to their extreme amounts of energy. They have a very playful nature, which, combined with their impressive energy reserves, usually translates into constant laps being run around the house and jumping off furniture for hours on end.
Fennec foxes are nocturnal animals by nature, but will adjust to your schedule if you keep them long enough. Despite being nocturnal, Tom Harford Columbia notes, fennecs love lying in the sun.
While their vocalizations are referred to by some as “barks”, Tom Harford Columbia warns: if you’re sensitive to noise, a fennec fox might not be the pet you’re looking for. Their “barks” can be ear-splitting, and with their capacity for energy and play, can sometimes be heard for hours on end.
Tom Harford Columbia doesn’t want to totally deter you from the idea of keeping a fennec fox as a pet, however. While they technically can not be domesticated, they can adapt quite well to living in a home with humans, if shown the proper care and raised correctly. They require veterinary care similar to dogs and should be taken for checkups semi-regularly. Beware, though: if you’re attempting to keep one in an illegal state or don’t have the proper paperwork, your vet is legally obligated to inform the authorities.
One surprising fact about fennec foxes Tom Harford Columbia shares with us is their ability to be litter trained. They tend to dig, so a deep, covered litter box is suggested to cut down on potential messes.
In conclusion, fennec foxes are definitely a tough pet to keep, but if you have the time, energy, and love to give, it can be a very rewarding experience raising a fennec. Properly cared for, they can live for up to 14 years in captivity.
Thomas Harford Columbia is passionate about making sure that those who watch after exotic pets are using the proper methods to care for them in a safe and loving manner. To that end, he’s put together a short guide on what it means to take care of a domesticated skunk.
It may seem outlandish to some—after all, skunks aren’t exactly a common pet choice for at least one very obvious reason—but skunks are actually a shockingly popular pet. This is especially true in the UK, where it is currently 100% legal to keep a skunk as a pet without the need to apply for a license. Their surprising popularity as a pet is in spite of the fact that removal of a skunk’s scent glands is considered an immoral practice in the UK, meaning the risk of being sprayed by a spooked skunk is very real!
The legality of owning a skunk
As mentioned earlier, if you live in the UK, you’re free and clear to take care of a skunk. However, Thomas Harford Columbia urges Americans to take a look at their local state laws to make sure you won’t be breaking the law if you decide to welcome a skunk into your home as a new part of the family.
Thomas Harford Columbia informs us that skunks are fully illegal in 32 of the 50 states. Even if you’re in one of the outlying states that will allow a skunk as a pet, there are many restrictions depending on where you reside. Most states require a permit, while some impose a restriction on how many you’re able to have. In some states, such as Michigan, you’ll need to build an outside cage for your new furry friend.
Taking care of your skunk
Thomas Harford Columbia warns us that taking care of a skunk is a considerably larger challenge than other housepets. Skunks’ appetites are no joke: they’ll eat just about anything, and it’s tough to tell when to stop feeding them, as they tend to have very large appetites. Obesity in pet skunks is a very common problem, Thomas Harford Columbia advises.
As stated earlier, skunks are extremely difficult to take care of compared to other pets. The reasons for this are many, besides the obvious challenges one would face when dealing with a skunk. Thomas Harford Columbia explains that although there are numerous domesticated skunk organizations dedicated to helping people take care of their skunks, they often offer conflicting information, and it can be hard to know what advice to follow.
Skunks are intelligent creatures, and with intelligence comes emotion. It’s entirely possible your skunk will sometimes be in a bad mood and resort to biting and scratching. The constant upkeep and work that goes into taking care of a skunk may be too much for someone to handle, warns Thomas Harford Columbia. If you give if your best and truly believe you can’t continue to care for the skunk you’ve adopted, there are relocation options available if you know where to look. Thomas Harford Columbia suggests looking for a local skunk shelter who can help you ensure your pet skunk finds a new, loving home.
As with any domesticated animal, they will be unfit for life in the wild after spending so long away from it. Thomas Harford Columbia implores any skunk owners who have reached the end of their rope to not under any circumstances release the skunk into the wild.
It may seem strange, but caring for a skunk can be a beautiful, rewarding experience if you’re willing to put in the time and care as you would for any other living being. If you’ve decided to make the leap and care for a skunk, Thomas Harford Columbia wishes you the best of luck!
Learn more about Thomas Harford Columbia by visiting his website: https://tomharfordcolumbia.com/posts/
Tom Harford is a Western State University graduate and an exotic pet expert. As a New Yorker, Tom explains why you need to have a license before rehabilitating NY wildlife.
Tom Harford is an animal lover and is the defender of exotic animals, pets, and wildlife. He recognizes there are times when people come across hurt animals in the wild.
“This is something we sadly cannot avoid. But before taking an injured animal home, you need to consider their rights. Animals have rights too, and we need to respect the New York laws put in place to protect them,” says Tom Harford.
He further states, “This does not mean that wounded or baby wild animals should be ignored. It means they need to be cared for by a professional, a person with a license.”
The Rehabilitation Wildlife license authorizes New York residents to rehabilitate a wild animal. This entails caring for injured or young orphaned wildlife in preparation for their return to the wild.
This license is vital for taking proper care of New York wildlife. The goal is to save as many animals as we can by nurturing, loving, and obtaining the appropriate license.
Tom Harford says, “If you are an animal lover, and over the age of sixteen, you can get the license. You will need to take a few classes first to get a license. Here are a few essential things you need to know.”
- There is no fee for Class I, Class II, or Assistant Licenses.
- The duration of Class I and Class II Licenses is 5 years.
- The duration of the Assistant License is 1 year.
- The age requirement is 16 years of age or older.
“There are two license types with subclasses for the wildlife rehabilitator license. It is vital that you become fully aware of your options. Gain as much information as you can before becoming a wildlife rehabilitator in NY,” says Harford.
- General Wildlife Rehabilitator – Classes I, II*, and Assistant
- Rabies Vector Species Wildlife Rehabilitator – Classes I, II*, and Assistant
With the license, you can care for injured or debilitated wildlife. This includes most of the following:
- Reptiles & amphibians
- Unregulated bird species (i.e., pigeons, European starlings, house sparrows)
- Some regulated game birds (i.e., turkey, pheasant, grouse)
- Capturing, housing, feeding and providing emergency treatment to injured wildlife.
If you find a nest of baby birds with no parents or an injured mammal, it is essential to call local officials. Do not take them home—that is, unless you have the Wildlife Rehabilitation License.Learn more about Thomas Harford by visiting his website: https://tomharfordcolumbia.com/posts/
In August 2019, the U.S. announced its changes to how the Endangered Species Act is applied, minimizing its power.
“I felt discouraged.”
Tom continued, “Changes to this Act will make it harder to protect wildlife from climate change. In 2019, the U.S. significantly weakened the Endangered Species Act. It is unfortunate news.”
The modifications would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list. Protections for threatened species will diminish, along with our wildlife.
Over time, more “threatened species” will end up on the endangered list.
Thomas Harford says, “This is completely unacceptable. The U.S. should be working on conserving our wildlife, not trying to end it.”
Thomas Harford believes in the importance of taking care of pets and wildlife. Tom does not support these expected changes.
For the first time, regulators can conduct economic evaluations, where endangered species live. They will gain the right to invade critical habitats to check the loss of revenue, for instance.
“It seems the 2019 U.S. government cares more about money than saving our wildlife,” said Thomas Harford.
Furthermore, it would make it harder to factor in how climate change affects wildlife. This would negatively impact wildlife conservation efforts, as these threats are not immediate.
The revised rules will likely create more room for new mining, oil, and gas drilling. It is also probable that we will see development in areas where protected species live.
Thomas Harford declares:
“The next generation will live in a world without cheetahs and polar bears. There is a need for change, but the U.S. got it wrong. They should focus more on saving our wildlife, not eliminating it.”
The amendments to the Endangered Species Act became real in September 2019. At the time, both environmental groups and Democrats disapproved of the changes. They vowed to challenge them in Congress and in the courts.
This is not the first time negative changes have occurred to environmental laws. The 2019 U.S. administration has sought to increase fossil fuel use. They also plan to scrap many environmental regulations.
It seems like a pattern is emerging.
Learn more about Thomas Harford by visiting his website: https://tomharfordcolumbia.com/posts/
Middle school teacher, Thomas Harford of Columbia, has an extensive background working with exotic pets. Tom Harford of Columbia wants to set the record straight about which exotic pets are legal to own in the state of New York.
Thomas Harford of Columbia is passionate about the well-being and regular care of exotic animals. Tom Harford’s experience includes working in pet stores, breeding animals, and earning a Ph.D. in Zoology. Tom Harford of Columbia has also spent time working at a zoo, and his current role is that of a middle school science teacher.
With his knowledge, Thomas Hardford of Columbia feels inclined to educate New Yorkers about owning exotic animals in NY State. Tom Harford of Columbiasays most do not know which exotic animals they can keep as pets. The not knowing can be harmful to the animals and dangerous for the community, not to mention illegal.
Those considered “wild animals” are prohibited in most states, including NY. These animals include:
- Big cats
- Venomous and giant reptiles (crocodilians, large constrictor snakes, and large monitor lizards)
Most exotic animals are regulated by the Department of Conservation (DEC). What most New Yorkers do not know is that a lot more animals are legal in New York State, as opposed to New York City. In NYC, most animals are illegal.
Thomas Harford of Columbia stresses, “If you do not know which animals can be pets, contact your state’s agency. It is also important to reach out to your city, county, and neighborhood associations, as well.”
Learn more about Thomas Harford of Columbia: https://tomharfordcolumbia.com/posts/
Serval cats are some of the most beloved exotic pets in the areas of the United States where they are legal to keep at home. Serval cats live for up to 25 years and usually weigh between 20 and 40 pounds when they are full-grown. These beautiful African cats have long legs, gorgeous golden coats, a playful and mischievous nature, and the ability to bond deeply with their owners for life.
However, as world-renowned exotic pet expert and science educator Thomas Harford Columbia explains, serval cats are also wild animals. If you plan on owning one, you need to understand all the ins and outs of the care and keeping of this unique pet.
According to Tom Harford Columbia, “The first thing you need to do if you’re considering buying a serval cat is to look at the laws in your city and state. Serval cats aren’t legal everywhere in the U.S. In some states, they are completely illegal to own. In others, you will need to obtain a license. In others, such as South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Idaho, you can own a serval cat legally without a license.”
The pet expert also emphasizes that you need a high-quality enclosure for your serval cat. “Serval cats are nocturnal and play actively at night,” says Thomas Harford Columbia. “They jump, run, and play, sometimes aggressively. You need to ensure that your outdoor enclosure is large, open, and well-reinforced so that your serval cat can’t dig their way out. If you don’t have a large property, a serval cat is likely not the best pet for you.”
In terms of food, Tom Harford Columbia recommends a diverse diet including live rodents, birds, and seafood. “Make sure that your serval cat gets a lot of different kinds of food to ensure their optimal nutrition,” Thomas Harford Columbia advises.
Finally, the pet expert suggests that you avoid getting a serval cat if you have small children, babies, or other animals in the home. According to Tom Harford Columbia, this can sometimes pose risks to their safety. “Although serval cats can bond deeply with their owners if they are bottle-fed by them from birth, they are unlikely to enjoy being in a large group,” he shares. “They might get aggressive or bite if they feel threatened.”
Tom Harford Columbia is a renowned expert on exotic pets across nearly all species and breeds. A middle school science teacher, pet care instructor, and animal training educator, Thomas Harford Columbia has traveled the U.S. (and even the world) for nearly two decades to teach veterinarians, animal breeders and trainers, and pet owners about maintaining the health and safety of their exotic animals.
Tom Harford Columbia lives in upstate New York, where he works part-time at a local zoo in addition to teaching and maintaining a consistent, year-round touring schedule of public speaking engagements about environmental preservation and animal care.
If you’re thinking of owning an exotic pet, you probably already know that you have to keep legality in mind. Whether you can own an exotic pet or not depends on where you live in terms of your geographical region, as well as how much land you have on your property and what kind of animals you prefer.
But there’s something else you should keep in mind in terms of your exotic pet choice: kids. If you have children, you should choose an exotic pet that’s relatively easy to care for and has a friendly, calm temperament. Luckily, we spoke with exotic pet expert Thomas Harford Columbia about which exotic pets are best with families with multiple children.
According to Tom Harford Columbia, kids need to have an exotic pet at home that isn’t aggressive and responds well to human interaction. “As well-behaved as your kids might be, you should still keep both your kids’ safety and the animals’ happiness in mind when you make your decision,” says Thomas Harford Columbia. “While you might set rules about how your children interact with your pets, there’s no way to keep an eye on them all the time.”
If you don’t have much room at your home, Thomas Harford Columbia suggests you try a hedgehog as a pet. “Hedgehogs are solitary creatures and don’t need a lot of space or high-level care,” says Tom Harford Columbia. “Just make sure that your kids are willing to help with cleaning, as they do need their enclosures cleaned often.”
Tom Harford Columbia also suggests prairie dogs and flying squirrels for families with children. “These two rodents are very affectionate and social,” explains Thomas Harford Columbia. “You can easily train them, and they will enjoy spending time with groups of people they trust. They love to play.”
Thomas Harford Columbia is an exotic pet expert, consultant, advisor, and zookeeper in upstate New York. A middle school science teacher who owns many exotic pets of his own and previously earned his Ph.D. in zoology, Tom Harford Columbia has spent his decades-long career teaching people of all ages about the joys of owning, raising, breeding, and training exotic animals.
Tom Harford Columbia has traveled the country for over 15 years offering demonstrations at zoos, natural animal habitats, magic shows, circuses, and animal training centers, as well as consulting individuals on their at-home training of their exotic pets. Thomas Harford Columbia has also advised specialty veterinary medicine practitioners on the care, health, safety, and grooming of exotic animals from around the world. He is also a family man who takes pride in his children, who share his passion for exotic animals of every kind.
Capybaras are native to Brazil and Panama, but they’re becoming more popular as pets across the globe. These exotic pets are the largest rodents in the world and can live up to 12 years, although their lifespan is usually closer to 8-10 years.
Because capybaras are so active, social, and friendly when trained properly and well taken care of, they are reaching greater popularity as companions to keep in captivity. We spoke to Thomas Harford Columbia, a renowned exotic pet expert, educator, and zookeeper, about how best to care for your new capybara.
“First things first: Find out if it’s legal to own a capybara in your state,” says Tom Harford Columbia. “There are state-by-state guidelines on breeding, buying, owning, and keeping capybaras. There might be restrictions on who you’re allowed to buy your new pet from or where you can maintain its habitat. Make sure that you check the legality of owning your new capybara in detail before you dig in further.” Look into your state laws to learn more.
If you do decide to get a capybara, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure that your pet is happy and healthy. Capybaras need a great deal of space to roam and play. “A capybara’s habitat needs to be at least 12 by 20 feet around for them to be comfortable,” Tom Harford Columbia advises. Thomas Harford Columbia continues, “They also need a generously sized swimming hole, as they swim frequently. Capybaras also need to have a warm UVB light if the climate in your area is not warm enough, or if there’s not extensive natural light.”
Also, capybaras are highly social creatures. “Capybaras get very lonely if they’re left to their own devices,” says Tom Harford Columbia. “It’s best to keep them in pairs or small groups. However, make sure that you don’t keep a pair or group of males, as they don’t tend to get along with one another and can become aggressive. If you can’t or don’t want to purchase two or more capybaras, make sure that you spend ample quality time with your pet.”
Thomas Harford Columbia is a well-known exotic pet expert who has offered his commentary and insight to dozens of publications, pet training centers, and regional zoos, as well as individuals who hope to own exotic pets themselves. Tom Harford Columbia also serves as a middle school science teacher in Albany, NY, and works part-time at an area zoo, in addition to touring the country to offer seminars and workshops on exotic pet care.