It’s illegal to keep a native North American owl as a pet in the United States…but not across the pond. Birds of prey do not make good pets. You can use some birds of prey with the proper licensing as a hunting partner for falconry, but that type of bird always stays wild and can fend for itself.
Birds of prey kept as pets are doomed. When you keep a young bird as a pet, it “imprints” on what is feeding it. It grows into an adult and learns, “This is what I am. When I grow up, I will look for this shape as not only a source of food, but also a mate…but not all of them, some I’ll keep out of my territory.”
Oh sure an owl is cute as a small puff ball, but once they reach sexual maturity, they either want to mate with you or drive you out of their territory–both involve that bird flying at your head. Plus, we can’t train them to hunt. Humans do not know how to fly around, find prey in low light by sound and then kill it by squeezing it with our toes. That is something that young owls need to learn, sure they have some innate idea to use talons, but at the end of the day, you can’t just put an imprinted owl outside and expect it to automatically know how to survive.
Well, like any popular series, people saw owls delivering the mail in the Harry Potter books and movies (and saw female Hedwig played by a very male snowy owl in the movies). Well, people have been buying owls in the UK and have found out, “Wow, these really make awful pets!” As a result, a sanctuary has opened up to deal with all of the imprinted owls:
From the Telegraph:
The Potter phenomenon has been blamed for a surge in the number of people buying owls, emulating the young magician who keeps a snowy owl called Hedwig as a pet. Now an animal sanctuary has opened on the Isle of Wight to help cope with the problem of owls dumped by owners who can no-longer care for them properly.
Animal expert Don Walser, who has opened Newport Owl and Monkey Sanctuary, said: “The problem is that no licence is required, anyone can buy an owl.
“They might look great in the Harry Potter films, but it takes years to train them. Children read the books and see the films and say to their mums and dads they want one and parents don’t realise how much care it takes to look after them.
“We have got about 20 owls at the moment, which have come from all over the country.
“I have a pair of snowy owls that were left in a garden by their owners for three days without food. They would have died. It was disgusting.
“Some people keep them in appalling conditions,” said Mr Walser.
RSPCA spokeswoman Jo Barr said the Potter stories led to a big rise in enquiries about owls from the public.
“In the past years we have seen an increase in the number of Dalmatians sold after the Disney films and we also saw an increase in the number of turtles after the Ninja Turtles craze.
“We saw a noticeable increase in calls from people wanting to know where they could obtain an owl following the release of the first Harry Potter film,” she said.
She said the RSPCA advises that people do not buy owls as pets, which need a lot of care and can live for 20 years. Although it is illegal to sell wild birds, traders can deal in captive bred specimens, with breeds like snowy owls fetching around £250 a bird.