The Elephant in the Living Room 

Documentary examines the wildlife-as-pets phenomenon

click to enlarge 1125880.jpg

The Elephant in the Living Room

3 Stars


You don't have to work very hard to convince Central Floridians that exotic animals - lions, snakes, alligators - are everywhere, and not just in zoos. I was recently asked if I'd like to feed a pond full of baby gators … at a putt-putt course for kids. And of course Repticon 2011 is just around the corner, where exotic and venomous animals - and not just reptiles - are available to buy "like potato salad at the local grocery store," says a hidden camera-carrying infiltrator at a similar convention in this shaggy yet passionate doc examining the phenomenon of wild animals being kept as pets in America. (It's currently legal in Florida to own practically any animal, from monkeys to cheetahs, with the purchase of a $150 permit.)

Director Michael Webber spends too much screen time replaying local news reports of a lion loose on a highway and a strangled python owner, but when he settles on a defining example of the problem - the clash between disabled, loving lion owner Terry and weary Tim Harrison, an Ohio public safety officer who spends too much of his job cleaning up the mess when exotic animal owners slip up - the film engrosses and 
educates in equal order.

Initially, Terry is full of righteous defiance and dangerous, if understandable, parental protection for his adult African lions. When things start spiraling out of control, Tim's pleas for oversight and intervention start seeping into Terry's head, and the men form an unlikely bond - both want nothing more than to 
protect these animals.

The Elephant in the Living Room is structurally scattershot but its evidence is sound and fair, its characters sympathetic and its message, if muddled, is still important and effectively delivered. It's being distributed independently and screens at the Plaza Cinema Café starting April 1.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 14, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation