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The Elephant in the Living Room

An eye-opening doc about the deadly exotic pets your neighbors might own

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You need a license to have a dog, but in many parts of the U.S., there's no paperwork required to keep a potentially deadly animal as a pet. Michael Webber's fascinating and occasionally alarming documentary looks at exotic pet-keeping, focusing on the area around Dayton, Ohio. There, we meet a local cop, Tim Harrison, who also tries to humanely manage the astounding number of wild-beasts-as-pets in his jurisdiction. One of his concerns is Terry, a depressed trucker, who keeps four African lions in a ramshackle cage in his backyard. Things go bad -- an escape, one animal dying horribly (and on camera) -- but over the course of the film, Harrison tries to find a solution for Terry and his big cats. (There are no good ones, Harrison says. Only rarely can a discarded wild animal/pet be relocated to a sanctuary; most are killed.) Interspersed are news accounts of various "pets" -- bears, big cats, monkeys, large snakes -- causing trouble. Webber tries to be fair to all sides, but clearly, this shadowy subculture of exotic pets could use a lot more sunshine. Starts Fri., April 8. Rave (former Showcase North), McKnight Road, North Hills

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