Posted by trexc42 on:
'The Elephant in the Living Room' just had its world
premier at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Thursday
afternoon. It’s showing again tonight at 6:30PM at Victoria Hall. I
know you can’t hear it, but I am yelling at you to PLEASE go see this
Before I watched this movie, I knew nothing about the world of exotic animals in the United States. Now I’m completely fascinated, frustrated, and totally blown away by what I’ve learned. The Elephant in the Living Room follows Tim Harrison, a public safety officer in Oakwood, Ohio who has responded to a countless number of calls over the years involving people and their exotic pets. Harrison is also director of a non-profit organization that he started in 2001 called Outreach for Animals and he’s been working with exotic animals for 34 years.
Exotic animal ownership has become a huge problem in the United States ever since animal-based reality TV shows became so popular in the 1990’s. After seeing these intriguing animals on TV, a lot of people become inspired to buy one to keep in their home. The problem is that people with little to no handling experience are able to easily obtain animals like alligators, cobras, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, and really any other animal you can think of.
What’s amazing about all of this is the ease in which a person can buy something like an extremely deadly snake or a mountain lion. There are no federal laws that govern this so whether or not you’re allowed to own an exotic pet is usually governed by the state you live in. In the United States today there are approximately 15,000 big cats that have private owners and it’s totally legal for them to have them. There are about 20 states that allow ownership of exotic animals as pets and in about half of those states you are not even required to have a license. Roger Pahkola, an emergency room doctor that’s interviewed in the film, remarks that you have to have “dog tags for your dog but not tags for your lion.”
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that don’t want the issue of exotic animal ownership to become a topic of conversation. Consider the fact that, in 2003, the sale of dangerous exotic animals was a 13.5 billion dollar industry and I’m guessing it’s even more now. As Director Mike Webber puts it, “this [is] the elephant in the living room. This is an enormous thing and it’s not even really obscure, it’s everywhere and nobody is talking about it and nobody really knows that this exists.”
‘The Elephant in the Living Room’ manages to educate its viewer about all of the issues surrounding exotic pet ownership but it also doesn’t give just a narrow perspective of what’s going on. In addition to following Tim Harrison for a over a year, Webber also focused on Terry Brumfield who raised his two African lions, Lambert and Lacy since they were a few months old. You get to see how Brumfield interacts with the lions and how he literally loves them as if they were his own children. I think this film very successfully presents this incredibly complicated issue and will hopefully cause us to have more of a dialogue about what we are allowing to occur in this country.
Please don’t worry that you’re going to come out of this movie and feel totally disturbed and emotionally drained. Instead, I think you’ll be glad that you got to see such a beautifully told story play out on the screen. Harrison is hoping that people will “ask tons of questions” after seeing this film and “investigate [this issue] for themselves.” I’m still quite dumbstruck by everything I’ve learned today and I really think (and hope!) this film is going to make a big impact. I can’t wait to talk to more people about what they think about this movie! Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s playing tonight at Victoria Hall and you should REALLY be in attendance.