MITCHELL LATTOF | September 30, 2020 | Alabama Law
Alabama’s laws on exotic pets are exceptionally lax. Although Alabama law does not explicitly state that sloth ownership is legal, it is generally not a problem.
The challenging part is obtaining the sloth in the first place. They can be difficult to come by and can cost upwards of $6,000. Sloths are native to Central and South America, so finding one in the U.S. can be tricky.
Although sloths have come to embody laziness, taking care of one is no small task and requires continued effort. Sloths need a lot of attention and providing food, and a habitat for them can get expensive. Make sure you are well-equipped to take care of a sloth before adopting one.
Facts to Consider Before Getting a Sloth
Caring for a domesticated animal is hard. Caring for an exotic animal is even harder. Exotic animals usually have all of their natural instincts and habits intact. Bringing a wild animal into a domestic sphere that is not well-equipped for it can be detrimental to the animal’s well-being.
Likewise, the area outside your home should be able to accommodate the animal. If you do not have a veterinary clinic that can treat sloths nearby, you should rethink getting a pet sloth. Sloths tend to have dietary problems when in captivity as their natural diet is not available to them, so a reliable vet is crucial. Regular veterinary clinics might refuse to treat an exotic animal if their facilities are not properly equipped.
Factors like travel should be weighed in your decision to get a pet sloth. If you travel regularly, you should not own a sloth. It will be hard to find a pet sitter while you are away, and sloths have very particular needs.
Buying a Sloth
If you are intent on getting a sloth, try to get one that is still young and was bred in captivity. Adult sloths often come from the wild and will not fare well in a domestic atmosphere.
Sloths are rare in the United States. You will have to do some searching to find an exotic pet broker in your area. A reliable broker should be able to give you plenty of information about the sloth’s upkeep and answer any questions you may have. Online exotic pet sellers are questionable.
Caring for a Pet Sloth
Sloths are calm and generally very quiet, but they can be high-maintenance. They require a very specific diet and environment to remain healthy.
Although they are not fast movers, sloths need large enclosures with plenty of room to move around. They will need trees or tree-like structures to hang from, so your home should be able to accommodate tall structures.
Sloths are used to the humidity of the Amazon Rainforest. To keep a pet sloth happy and healthy, your home’s humidity level should be at about 80 or 90 percent. If you are reluctant to humidify your entire home, create the enclosure in a small room to control temperature and humidity better.
To maintain its body temperature, your sloth should remain in the humidified enclosure most of the time. If you take it out for too long, the sloth’s body temperature can drop, causing its digestive system to shut down.
In the wild, sloths feast on a diet of leaves native to the rainforest. The best way to feed a pet sloth is with leaf eater pellets or sticks. Zoos use leaf eater pellets to feed their sloths, as they are the easiest way to replicate a sloth’s natural diet.
Additionally, sloths can eat fruits and vegetables like lettuce, carrots, apples, and potatoes. Do not feed sloths leaves from your backyard or the surrounding area. Sloths can only eat certain types of leaves that grow in Central and South America.
To help replicate the sloth’s natural habitat, you can string lettuce and greens up high in the enclosure. Water should also be strung up high. In their natural habitat, sloths use dew drops on leaves as their water source.
Other Things to Consider
Thanks to internet memes and viral videos, sloths are increasingly desired as pets. Keep in mind that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. As mentioned, sloths should remain in their enclosure almost all the time. They also sleep around 20 hours a day and are generally averse to petting or grooming. Because of their nature and sleeping habits, they might not be the best company on a day-to-day basis.
Domestic atmospheres can be stressful for sloths. They do not exhibit outward signs of stress, so pet owners have no way of knowing if their behavior is causing the sloth distress.
Sloths can live for up to 30 years. Owning a pet sloth is an immense commitment and should be reserved for highly-experienced exotic pet owners. You should be prepared to devote several hours a week to its care even after the novelty wears off.
And, keep in mind that under Alabama’s premises liability laws, you’re responsible if your sloth harms guests or visitors on your property. So, if your pet sloth scratches, bites, or attacks someone, you could be on the hook for their medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages.