Most of the film takes place in Ohio, which seems to be the epicenter of exotic pet culture. We follow the interwoven stories of Tim Harrison, an Ohio public safety officer who works for an organization called Outreach for Animals, and a man named Terry, who keeps several lions as pets in his backyard. Tim spends his days trying to track down and catch the various exotic pets that for one reason or another end up on the loose in the neighborhoods around Dayton. Terry spends his days struggling to care for his outsized pets, which becomes especially difficult after his large male escapes from his pen and starts chasing down and attacking cars on the highway.
Last night I watched the documentary movie The Elephant in the Living Room (check out the movie website). It is a stunning look inside one of the more bizarre and troubling subcultures in America: multi-billion dollar exotic animal industry. Although I was aware some people keep lions and bears and pythons as pets, I had no idea how enormous the market for exotics is or the magnitude of the problems it creates for the animals themselves. For example, I learned that there are over 15,000 big cats owned by people in the United States. There are more tigers in captivity in Texas than there are in the wild in Africa.