On the topic of dangerous animals as pets, my friend shared this article about a hippo that mauled their human. The article feels so familiar. Probably because it has the narrative format of countless others about eccentric humans who adopt unlikely animals to be later tragically killed by them. (Missing, perhaps, are the stories of these encounters that do not end in tragedy.)
The story of the human-animal encounter is almost always a savior narrative. The human animal saves the nonhuman animal from starving or drowning or some other certain death. The nonhuman animal is almost always an orphan. The human animal assumes a parental role. A period of bliss is followed by warning signs. The nonhuman animal attacks/chases other humans for instance. The parental human animal is portrayed as defensive about their nonhuman adopted child and very much in denial about the warning signs.
The human animal is quoted as saying these really cliché things in defense of their non-human– stressing the uniqueness of their relationship with the now-problem animal, talking about how “human-like” they are, etc. Since the reader of the story already knows how this ends, these defenses sound ill-informed, almost presaging the impending catastrophe.
Then the reader is informed about the grizzly details of how the nonhuman killed the human. (Missing is the almost certain fact that the nonhuman was immediately killed by other humans for this infraction.) Finally comes a string of statistics about how many humans this particular species of nonhuman kills every year, compared and contrasted with the death tolls of other nonhuman animals. (Missing from this account are the statistics on how many of these particular animals, as well as others considered “food”, are killed by humans every year.)
From this cookie-cutter narrative, one is left with only two certainties: 1) the human was killed by the nonhuman; 2) like the dead human said before they died, the particular nonhuman was indeed very human-like.
Looking at death tolls and statistics, especially of intimate partner violence, the most dangerous species of companion animal for humans to keep at home is the human. They may appear friendly and may continue to act this way for days, months, even years. You may miss the warning signs, like the human of the hippo, and you may justify their problematic behavior because, after all, they are so human-like. If you insist on adopting this dangerous animal, please feed them outside. Do not allow them to sleep in the same room with you.