Pet Product News Editorial Blog:
Nov. 14, 2012
Penguins For Sale?
By Elizabeth Creith
Any pet store that sells anything remotely exotic gets unusual requests. We've had requests for scorpions, ball pythons, Burmese pythons and Komodo dragons. (I once had a friend who mused that in order to keep a Komodo dragon, you'd need a walled garden and a succession of slow gardeners.)
Aside from the cost—and I'm pretty sure you couldn't buy a Komodo dragon out of petty cash, always assuming you could even get one—there are legal problems. Our city’s exotic pets bylaws prohibits all of the really interesting stuff.
David and I agree that the exotic pets bylaws were made by a bunch of stuffed shirts who don't want a ball python and don't think you should have one, either. They're afraid of snakes, scorpions, spiders and sugar gliders. Sugar gliders are small, docile critters who make good pets, but they're marsupials, so they're illegal, right along with kangaroos.
Sometimes, however, we're ever so grateful for that bylaw. Take penguins. Since we opened the store we've had several requests for penguins. I don't know if the film "March of the Penguins” or maybe "Happy Feet” had anything to do with it, but we had a spate of requests in a month or six weeks.
I'm sure the people requesting penguins think they're cute or cool. I can agree with that last one. Anything that lives in Antarctica is cool by definition. But "penguin” is a word that covers the range from tiny fairy penguins to Emperor penguins, who are essentially a four-foot-tall cylinder of feathers and fat with a big pointy beak on the end nearest your face.
Behind that beak is a bird's brain, and we're not talking about a bird like Jack, here. Jack is a loud, obnoxious bird with the emotional and intellectual development of a human three-year-old. Penguins aren't that loud, or that bright, either. The concept "friendly” makes about as much sense to your average penguin as the concept "space-time continuum.” Do not try to kiss your penguin. In fact, don't try to pet it, either, because most critters regard anything descending from above as a threat. Big, pointy beak, remember?
And what can you do with a penguin, anyway? You can't cuddle a penguin in your lap or drape it around your neck or carry it on your arm. It won't come when you call, or fetch a stick or sit up. (All right, penguins are more or less permanently sitting up, but you take my point.) It won't catch mice or purr. If you put an ultraviolet light on it, it won't fluoresce. You can take it for a shuffle, if you insist.
And where will you put it? You can't exactly keep one in your room, like a hamster. (Anyway, the sound of their feet going flap-flap-flap on the wheel would drive you nuts.) In fact, you probably can't keep just one. Penguins need other penguins. They also need lots and lots of water. Your swimming pool will do nicely, stocked with live fish. You'll want to add another filter, too. Fish in, fishy-smelling poop out.
Of course, none of these arguments can stand up to "cool.” But that's okay by me. I don't have to make them, after all. All I have to do is shrug my shoulders, smile and say, "Sorry. City bylaws don't allow penguins. You'll have to speak to city hall.”
Bless their little stuffed shirts.
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