Fatal Attractions looks at our dangerous and often deadly fascination with exotic animals.
Among his colleagues at the local car dealership, Ron Huff was known as “Lizard Boy.” At his apartment in Newark, Delaware, half a dozen full-grown monitor lizards, some more than six feet long, roamed freely. He cared obsessively for his reptilian companions, often putting their comfort above his own.
And then, one Monday in 2002, Ron didn’t show up for work.
The grisly discovery that police made later at Ron Huff’s home illustrates what would seem to be a self-evident proposition: keeping exotic and potentially lethal wild animals as pets is likely to have catastrophic consequences. So why do so many people pursue such a dangerous hobby?
That’s the question at the heart of Fatal Attractions, a gripping and often disturbing documentary series.
Despite the obvious risks, exotic pet ownership remains a popular pastime. It is estimated, for example, that there are as many as 10,000 big cats, such as tigers and leopards, being kept as pets in the United States. Fatal Attractions investigates the “dangerous mix of obsession, loneliness and desire” that causes some people to bring wild beasts into their homes, deliberately blurring nature’s ancient boundaries, and considers the violent price that they – and the animals – often end up paying.
Produced by Oxford Scientific Films, the series profiles ordinary men and women who have adopted exotic reptiles, chimpanzees and big cats, and documents shocking and tragic cases in which seemingly “tame” beasts have unleashed their natural selves, with disastrous results.
According to Josephine Martell from the Captive Wild Animal Protection Campaign, the impulse to own exotic animals often is linked to deeper psychological problems (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder). Exotic pet owners tend to identify powerfully with their animals, and imagine themselves to possess a unique understanding and ability to control these creatures. “They seem to believe it’s a reciprocal relationship,” Martell says. “Where in reality it’s about their own need for the animal.”
Fatal Attractions raises questions that all pet owners should ask: about our relationships with the animals that share our lives, about the understandable but often misguided impulse to “humanize” these creatures, and about the hunger for unconditional love that makes us turn dogs and cats –not to mention far wilder beasts – into full-fledged members of our families.