City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Animals that are Not Pets!

Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

The exotic pet trade is a $3 billion-a-year industry in the United States, with anything from parrots, fish, tigers, monkeys, and bears available to purchase. But just because you can doesn't mean you should buy one.

"Many people don't know that anyone can purchase a tiger, a bear, or other critically endangered species for $300 to $500," says Kati Krouse, the Executive Director of Bears Etc. 

Krouse strongly advises against owning exotic animals, such as monkeys, big cats, tropical birds, large reptiles, and of course, bears.

"These animals are not taken from the wild; they are bred and sold, selling baby animals to the public," Krouse says. "Breeders will do anything."

Researching exotic animals and understanding their cost of care is particularly important. Krouse says people do not realize the time, energy, space, and costs of caring for wild animals. They have extremely specific diets, enrichment, and housing needs that are expensive and will consume a lot of time for their care. As babies, they are cute and sweet, but once they get older, their demeanor will completely change, becoming unpredictable, aggressive, and dangerous.

"No one researches an animal before going and getting a pet," Krouse says. "Not all make great pets. Parrots and tortoises can live 70 to 100 years. Who will take care of these pets when you pass?"

Five years ago, she met a man who used five trained bears as entertainment for shows, rodeos, and circuses. They were not in the best health, and all five lived in a 20 x 30-foot cage, but they still outlived their owner. Krouse was called to transfer the animals because the man had become critically ill and could no longer care for them. He died two weeks later, and she notes that "rehoming" bears isn't the same as rehoming a dog.

"Bears can cost $20,000 per year to take care and feed, consuming 40 plus pounds of fruits and vegetables along with fish, nuts, bugs, and other animals (including feral hog piglets) per day when preparing for hibernation in the winter months," Krouse says. 

Recent estimates say that one thousand bears bought through the exotic pet trade live in substandard conditions in residential backyards as pets or roadside attractions needing placement. Animal facilities across the country housing large exotic animals and wildlife have closed due to a lack of finances. This leads to a lack of proper care and neglect.

The community does not realize how easy it is to buy an exotic animal. Currently, there are exotic animal sales north of Huntsville and through exotic pet stores in the Greater Houston area selling bears, tigers, lemurs, and other wild animals that only require a low-cost permit to have at your residence. You can buy a bear cub from a breeder for $500 and have it as a pet in your home!

In 2016, the Conroe Police Department received a report of a tiger found wandering near Longmire and League Line Road. Animal control officers located it and captured it. Later, it was transported to an animal sanctuary near Fort Worth.

"These large, dangerous carnivores are not domesticated and are really not tame," Krouse said. "They are a living, breathing, walking time bomb."

That's why Krouse backed the Big Cat Public Safety Act in 2022. She was so concerned that she sat down with Congressman Kevin Brady to explain the opposition and her qualms about the public's safety and that of the exotic animals, and he voted to pass the law the next legislative session. However, only ownership of big cats was outlawed. This law did not include or cover small cats, bears, and hyenas. 

Krouse's knowledge of exotics comes from years of experience as a vet tech, groomer, wildlife rehabilitator, and a manager of a rescue organization as well as being a successful executive director of her own nonprofit organization. She is a member of the Texas Black Bear Alliance and serves on its Board of Directors, promoting the restoration of black bears in proper habitats throughout Texas through cooperative partnerships using education, research, and habitat management.

Kati Krouse's primary goal is to build the nation's first Bear-focused sanctuary for bears rescued from the exotic pet trade. The state-of-the-art facility would house neglected, rescued, and abandoned wildlife and exotic animals "close for people to bring their kids to see animals without fighting the Houston traffic," she said.

Much of Krouse's time is spent rescuing exotic animals, specifically bears, out of the exotic pet trade and educating the public by connecting people with nature. The organization exists to supply a permanent, community-based, self-sustainable refuge for displaced exotic and wild animals and educate others about the natural world. Krouse often speaks to civic organizations, clubs, and schools educating the community about wildlife, exotic animals, and of course Bears, Etc.

"I love sharing my passion with others and encouraging them to leave our planet better than we found it," she says.

For more than 20 years, Kati Krouse has been caring for and rescuing neglected and abandoned exotic animals.

“Saving, changing lives, and speaking up for those who don’t have a voice is very important to me,” Krouse says.

This is why she was compelled to form BEARS Etc. as a 501(c)3 in 2017 and to build the nation’s first Bear-focused sanctuary for bears rescued from the exotic pet trade.

One of her main priorities besides caring for exotics is educating the public and fundraising to purchase 20 acres in Montgomery County for the bears. The sanctuary will be open to the public, and Krouse expects 50,000 visitors a year, which will bring economic value to the community.

For more information on Bears Etc. follow

  • The Big Cat Public Safety Act prohibits tigers as pets.
  • Lions are not appropriate.
  • Cute monkeys can grow into larger monkeys.
  • Kati Krouse and Congressman Kevin Brady
  • Bears can cost $20,000 per year to take care and feed, eating 40 pounds of produce and 5 pounds of protein every day!
  • Kati Krouse, Executive Director Bears Etc.