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Exotic animals to be auctioned at Roane State facility

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By Hugh Willett

An exotic animal auction to be held at the Henry/Stafford Agricultural Exposition Center at Roane State Community College has raised concerns among some local animal lovers.

The Smokey Mountain Exotic Animal Auction – scheduled for April 27- 28 — is sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Alternative Livestock Auction Company.

Local animal lover Emily Steele said the auction raises lots of questions and concerns.

“I am concerned about the exotic birds,” she said.

Exotic animals often have a murky background story, she said.

“Were they taken from their native habitat illegally, or are they bred from birds that have been taken illegally?” she said.

Steele said she also has questions about the organizations involved.

“The organization may be licensed in the U.S., but what is the background story of these animals,?”

The animal’s future treatment is also an issue.

“Will they be taken care of appropriately?” she asked.

The exotic animal business is highly regulated by both state and federal agencies, according to Chrystal Frazier, owner of Smoky Mountain Alternative Livestock.

“Livestock must be licensed properly, handled properly and sold legally,” Frazier said.

Exotic animal auctions feature everything from goats to donkeys, birds, Zebras, red foxes, monkeys and buffalo.

Animals in an exotic livestock auction are actually provided better care than at a typical livestock auction for farm animals such as cows, horses or sheep.

Everything from the animals themselves to the environment in which they are housed must be inspected periodically.

A veterinarian is also on duty at the auction.

Every effort is made to ensure the health and safety of the animals sold, she said. All the animals that are sold at the auction are certified to be healthy and disease-free.

Frazier said her farm is licensed to breed red fox, which are often sold to zoos for breeding programs.

Customers are not typical pet owners.

“A typical person won’t spend $10,000 on a buffalo,” she said.

Owners who spend a lot of money on their exotic pets usually treat the animals well, she said.

“These animals are not going to a kill-pen,” she said.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Va., is concerned about the sale of exotic animals.

The exotic animal trade is rife with cruelty, from the dealers who kidnap animals from their homes in the wild or breed them in filthy warehouses to the individuals who purchase them as “pets” only to find out that they’re unable to care for them properly once they’ve grown, said Jenni James, counsel to PETA

“PETA reminds everyone that wild animals belong in nature and that the only appropriate place to find an animal companion is at an animal shelter,” James said.