SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— The legality of owning exotic animals varies in the United States across state lines. Dr. Jennifer Scarlett with the San Francisco SPCA calls the country a “patchwork of laws”.

When we talk about exotic animals, we’re talking about animals that aren’t cats, dogs or any other in the five domestic species.

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“This could be anything from a chinchilla or a hedgehog all the way up to a tiger or lion,” Scarlett said.

Scarlet estimated that there are more exotic animals held in private captivity than there are in American zoos.

“It’s understandable that people would want these beautiful animals, but some people mix up that beauty with wanting to tame wild animals. Others are drawn to their power and maybe even their danger.”

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Unfortunately it’s not too difficult to obtain an exotic animal with an incredible demand and with that demand, comes suppliers.

“A lot of these regulations aren’t that well enforced. It’s very easy to acquire exotic animals.”

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Scarlet said organizations such as Outreach for Animals will take exotic animals out of a bad situation and put them into appropriate sanctuaries. Born Free USA is another animal advocacy group focused on reducing the suffering of wild animals held in captivity.