Commentary: Alaska Game Board should err on side of caution in banning animals

Owners or would-be owners of exotic pets want the Alaska Board of Game to put more creatures on the "clean list" of animals that Alaskans can legally own. The board's response should start with "no."

That doesn't mean that all requests be denied without consideration. But the prevailing policies of the departments of Fish and Game and Environmental Conservation are wise.

"We're just really conservative and concerned about this," state biologist Rick Sinnott said. "So we generally try to hold the line on these things."

Exotic pets are nothing new in Alaska. From the bearded dragon that provides lessons about lizards in preschool classrooms to the black scorpion that better not be a Christmas stocking stuffer, Alaskans have owned all sorts of pets not native to the country.

In many cases, they pose little threat, and if even if they escape, they can't survive the northern habitat. Nature often provides its own defenses.

But there may be risks -- of the spreading of diseases, of mistreatment or abandonment of the animals when the novelty wears off, and even of introduction of species that could upset local ecologies. One proponent of changes argued that if an individual is willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a Capuchin monkey or a hybrid cat, that's their business and not the state's.

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