You wouldn't think this needs to be said, but apparently it does: It doesn't make any sense to keep a bobcat as a pet in New Jersey.

And although residents of the most densely populated state enjoy many rights, the unlimited right to own exotic pets is not among them.

We get it. Some people like exotic animals. Those people should become patrons of zoos and should plan safari vacations. Trying to make wild animals behave as domesticated pets is a bad idea. It is unfair to the animal and can have tragic consequences.

In extreme cases, exotic pets can turn on humans, as a chimpanzee in Stamford, Conn., did in 2009, when it savagely attacked its owner's neighbor, causing devastating injuries.

In 1999, a Bengal tiger was roaming loose in Jackson Township and was shot by authorities. Four years later, 24 tigers were confiscated from a private preserve near the incident.

Once a boa constrictor or alligator escapes from someone's home, there's no telling what damage it can do to native species, other people's pets - or to the rest of us. Even small animals can damage the state's ecosystem when they are introduced into an environment where they have no natural predators.

Which brings us to Rocky, a 3-year-old bobcat hybrid that escaped from Ginny Fine's Stafford Township home in October and again in March. When the bobcat was recovered this week, police took it to Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township pending a court hearing.

Now, a hybrid bobcat is not a chimpanzee or a tiger. Fine's bobcat has some domestic feline in its lineage and is declawed. She brought the animal from Montana, and township police said she was only required to have a cat license.

But this animal is still a 38-pound bobcat. It is not a house cat. It may look cute, but experts warn that hybrid cats can cause serious problems, especially when they mix with feral cat populations. And Fine has not built a new outside enclosure for it, something she agreed to do after the October escape.

So while it is understandable that Fine misses her pet, we think confiscating the animal after its most recent escape is the right thing to do. And we see no reason why Fine should be allowed to keep this animal. At the very least, Rocky should not be returned to Fine until that enclosure is constructed.

And please, folks, stop bringing exotic pets into the state. If you like felines, New Jersey has more cats than it can find homes for. Many of them, we assure you, have the personalities of wild animals.

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