There’s never a dull moment in a big family, which is what makes shows like Outdaughtered, 19 Kids & Counting, and Meet The Putnams so popular. TLC is about to introduce a new, super-sized clan to the world, only this family is possibly the wildest yet. Meet the Abrams family, the stars of Our Wild Life, which premieres on May 22. This new reality series gives viewers a glimpse into the life of one family from North Carolina that has 80 pets and counting. Is that even allowed, though? Is it illegal to own too many pets?
First, a little background on Our Wild Life. Bobbie Jo and Jerry Abrams live in Pinetops, North Carolina. In the preview for the show, Bobbie Jo happily explains to the camera that they have “a multi-species family,” consisting of “two beautiful girls, one little boy, and 80 fur babies.” Cut to a shot of zebra bucking across a wide lawn, and another of a tortoise, a little pig, and a wallaby sharing a plate of fruits and veggies on the hardwood floor. A lemur gnaws happily on a raw slice of bacon and Bobbie Jo’s voice asks, “Is he supposed to eat raw bacon like that?” Good question, Bobbie Jo. Who knows?
From the trailer, it does look like the Abrams family has a big property with ample space for a lot of critters to roam around, but is any house really big enough for a goat, a sheep, a wallaby, a lemur, and so on, and so on? Well, it depends on where you live. Your landlord might limit the number of pets you’re allowed to have in your building, or cities might set a cap on the number of pets for their residents. For instance, according to American City & Country, San Jose, California has a maximum of five pets per household. In my research, I couldn’t find any such restriction for the Abrams’ home of Pinetops, North Carolina.
According to one Raleigh news station, WRAL, North Carolina is particularly permissive when it comes to laws on exotic animals. Pam Fulk, the director of Carolina Tiger Rescue explained that even animals like lions and tigers aren’t always off limits. “In North Carolina, your neighbor can own [a tiger] in his backyard unless you live in a county or a municipality in which it’s illegal,” she said. Fulk went on to explain that while some areas do put restrictions on more dangerous animals, they aren’t always enforced. Luckily for the smaller prey (and people), it doesn’t look like the Abrams family have any big cats living on their property.
The law does get a little trickier when it comes to buying, moving, and selling exotic animals across state lines. According to the North Carolina state law, as shown on AnimalLaw.info, both the lemur (aka ringtail) and the skunk would have required special permits from the state veterinarian before being brought into the state. If the animals were born in the state, however, it doesn’t look like any permits are necessary.
As for that spunky zebra? It doesn’t even require a permit at all. Per NPR, zebras are legal in most states. Nancy Nunke, founder of the Intertnational Zebra-Zorse-Zonkey Association, estimated that there are probably about 3,000 pet zebras in the United States, but it’s impossible to know for sure since they don’t require any sort of registration. Theoretically, you could own as many zebras as you want — although it’ll cost you. NPR reported that at venues like the Raz Livestock Auction, zebras regularly go for $4,000 a pop.
There are activists who want to stop the exotic pet trade altogether. TLC and the Abrams family have already started taking some heat on social media not just for the number of animals the family has, but because some viewers believe they’re promoting the exotic animal trade. Bustle reached out to TLC for comment, but did not receive a response as of press time.
The Abrams critters aren’t just exotic accessories, though. According to their personal website, the Abrams family runs a small zoo from their backyard, where they host everything from birthday parties to summer camps where children can interact with and learn about the animals. The website explains, “We are a USDA licensed facility and highly trained to care for each of our unique animals. All of them are up to date on their shots and received lots of daily attention from our staff.”
The website, called It’s A Zoo Life, also clarifies that most of the animals have been with the family zoo since they were babies, and the family shares a special bond with all of their furry friends. The bio goes on to explain how this homestead differs from a more traditional zoo:
“From the inception of Zoo Life our goal has been to offer a unique experience for our visitors, therefore our animals have been selected and conditioned with this is mind. Most of them have been with us since they were babies, started out living in our home, and we are proud of the bond we share with each of them. Larger facilities may have more species of animals or offer a drive through safari type tour but here you will get to know each of our animals personally. The most noteworthy difference between our Zoo and others is it’s our own backyard and these are truly our pets. We interact with them daily and know their personalities in depth.”
And now, thanks to TLC, soon you’ll be able to get to know the Abrams family and their special brood, too.