The Elephant in the Living Room: Fascinating Documentary About Exotic Animals in the U. S.

There are more tigers in captivity in Texas than in the wild of India. (Quote from EITL documentary).

The Elephant in the Living Room“, although a critically acclaimed and award winning documentary, has enough heart, drama, and excitement to keep even an intern awake after a 36-hour shift. It explores the almost “rabid” surge in privately owned wild animals, and the danger it poses to the public. Although the documentary is about exotic and potentially dangerous wild animals, the story unfolds with real human heart. It tells the story of Terry Brumfield — a truck driver whose injuries from an accident left him with a life of pain and depression, until two lion cubs gave him a reason to live. It tells the story of responsible and irresponsible exotic pet ownership.

Terry Brumfield and his pet lion, Lambert.

Terry Brumfield said he could put down Lambert. But there would be two bullets in the gun.

Stuck in the middle is the story of Tim Harrison, director of “Outreach for Animals”, and main narrator for the documentary. His heart is split between the welfare and quality of life of the lions, Lacey and Lambert, and their owner who has so bonded with them they are like his children. As we watched this film Mike was struck by how much Terry looks like the animals he loves, and how much he resembles the lion on the Wizard of Oz.

As fascinating as the animals he loves, captures, rehabilitates, and places, Tim is a national spokesperson for the many-faceted problems of exotic animals and their owners. One day he’s taking a python out of the wall of a wheelchair bound, elderly lady (where it had holed up for 28 days), and the next he’s standing his ground against a snarling, charging cougar.

The selling of exotic animals is a national disgrace, and most of these sales and auctions will not allow cameras. With a hidden camera, Tim shows parents buying baby alligators and even venomous snakes for small children. And, guess what? in many states there is no law against it. As there is no law or deterrents against ownership of dangerous wild animals — not even background checks or licensing. 

The tragedies mount up daily. In 2011 a pet python crawled up into the crib of a two-year-old girl, then crushed and tried to ingest her. Her parents are serving 12 years in prison.

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In 2008 a teen girl in Palm Springs, Florida, was attacked by a cougar. A neighbor, Richard Morales, heard her screams, jumped a fence, and found the girl on the floor with her head in the cougar’s mouth. He beat on the cougar until it let the girl go. She sustained non-critical head injuries, though there were deep gashes.

Tim Harrison is on-call nationally to help keep bad situations from turning into tragedies. He comes across as sincere in his love for animals, and can get emotional talking about them. He has also been an exotic animal owner himself, and feels greatly for the people who love them. Tim walks boldly into terrifying situations, often armed with only a long bar with a grasper on the end. But he’s had lots of experience (34 years) and lots of training.

He once intervened between two four-and-six-year-old boys who had been playing all day with what they called a python. Tim saw the tip of its tail where it lurked behind some garbage cans in their garage. “BACK OFF!” Tim yelled at the boys. “That ain’t no python!” It turned out to be a gaboon viper from Africa, one of the deadliest and most dangerous snakes in the world, with the world’s largest fangs. The little boys had been playing with it all day, even wrapping it around their necks. No one was able to explain how that happened. I call it a miracle. God meant for these little boys to grow a little older and wiser.

A quote sums up the two main characters in the film, saying that Harrison is the documentary’s voice of reason, while Terry Brumfield is the film’s heart.


When I dug a little deeper into Tim Harrison’s background, I was even more impressed. Here’s a bit of his bio:

Tim is trained as a martial arts fighter. He is a World Heavyweight Karate Champion and was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards by both the International and US Martial Arts Hall of Fames.

Tim also works for Homeland Security as an instructor for Disaster and Emergency Response at Texas A&M.  He is a member of The Explorers Club and has traveled the globe with world-renowned nature filmmakers and wildlife authors.  His travels include Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America where he has investigated and learned much about animals and their native environments.

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In closing I will mention one other asset that makes this documentary outstanding among its peers . . . An unbiased point of view.


2 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Living Room: Fascinating Documentary About Exotic Animals in the U. S.

  1. I can assure you this is one movie I will never watch. I can’t even watch “Bambi” because I get much too upset at anything to do with injuries to animals or animal cruelty. I find it very upsetting when animals are kept in captivity by private owners who should know better. Zoos are bad enough, but private ownership of wild animals isn’t fair to either the animals or the people around them.


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