Perhaps you appreciate the affection that people have for their cats and dogs, but you yearn for a pet of a slightly more exotic nature. A bearded dragon, perhaps, or a white-faced pied cockatiel?
Before you pull out your wallet, you might want to consider that many animals are outlawed as pets in California. In fact, ferrets, which can allegedly be trained to use a litter box, have been illegal in the state since 1933, banned because of concerns they could carry rabies or do damage to state agriculture. Other mammals that are illegal to keep as pets? Raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, gerbils, hedgehogs, capybaras and African lions. We're not supposed to own alligators, snapping turtles and monk parakeets, either.
Dr. Olivia Petritz, who works at L.A.'s Access Specialty Animal Hospitals and specializes in exotic pets, emphasizes research for those in the market for an exotic (and cautions against using "Dr. Google" as your only source). "A significant source of disease for these species is still due to inappropriate diet and husbandry," she says.
If you do your homework, owning an exotic pet could be a rewarding experience. When you're ready, you'll need resources:
Omar's Exotic Birds: The store has a large selection of tropical birds, bird toys and food. In addition, it offers Camp Omar's, a boarding program for when you have to travel and you just can't take your bird along for the ride. 3301 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 571-2473, omarsexoticbirds.com. Other Omar's locations: 23507 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, (949) 472-3962; 903 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, (714) 572-8353; 6155 Balboa Ave., San Diego, (858) 569-5202.
Rosie Bunny Bean: This Highland Park pet supply shop specializes in food, specially made toys and other goodies for dogs, cats, chickens and, of course, rabbits. 1309 N. Ave. 51, Highland Park, (323) 274-4469, rosiebunnybean.com.
Canoga Discount Birds: All birds in this San Fernando Valley shop were raised on-site. The shop offers boarding and grooming on Fridays and Saturdays. 21731 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, (818) 883-3007, canogadiscountbirds.com.
Burbank Scales 'N' Tails: This pet shop specializes in all things coldblooded. Rabbits and mice are also available for sale. 1701 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 842-6496.
Dr. Chris Cauble's mobile vet service works with all kinds of animals, including rabbits, rodents, pigs, reptiles and farm animals. (818) 242-5576, petsdoc.com
Access Specialty Animal Hospitals: Open 24/7 for emergencies and specialty animal care. 20051 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 887-2262; 9599 Jefferson Blvd., West L.A., (310) 558-6100, accessanimalhospitals.com.
Westchester Veterinary Center: In addition to services at the bricks-and-mortar hospital, Westchester offers house calls for checkups and medicinal needs. 8911 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A., (310) 654-4444, westchestervet.com.
VCA Wilshire Animal Hospital: Services for domestic animals and exotics. 2421 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-4587, vcahospitals.com/wilshire.
Exotic Animal Care Center: This Pasadena facility focuses exclusively on exotic mammals, reptiles and birds. A special focus is given to aging and paralyzed rabbits. 2121 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 405-1777, exoticanimalcarecenter.com.
Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation: This organization's website is full of useful information on where to get supplies for your pet rabbit and where to get it spayed or neutered. The foundation also organizes weekly rabbit adoptions and care sessions at Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies stores. www.larabbits.org.
West Los Angeles Bird Club: The club's website includes information on adoptions, veterinary services, birding, meetings, and lost and found birds. westlabirdclub.com/home.html.