According to Gallup, 60% of Americans own at least one pet. And obviously, the majority of these are animals that are meant to be domesticated, like dogs and cats.
But that doesn’t mean other animals can’t be regarded as pets, if the circumstances allowed for it.
The Welde family in Florida has 14 grizzly bears as pets.
Multiple generations of the Welde family coincide with the bears, as the family has owned them for well over 90 years on their home called the Bearadise Ranch. For decades, Monica Welde and her son, Johnny IV, have treated these bears as family.
They are responsible for feeding them, giving them treats, and taking them on walks, like any other pet.
“My bears are a part of my family,” Monica said.
Yes, we know bears to be wild animals, and these animals shouldn’t be kept from the wild. But in this case, these bears are domesticated, and have been taken care of by humans for generations — they wouldn’t know how to fend for themselves should they be released into the wild.
The bears’ ages range from 5 to 23 years old.
The Bearadise Ranch is not only the family’s home, but it’s also an organization that helps any bears in need. Monica claims that their family is licensed to take in bears that need homes, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The family has also been extensively trained to care for these animals, as it’s not a walk in the park to be able to take care of 1,000 pound pets. And the only people that should own bears, if they had the chance, are people that are already trained to do so.
Also, the environment that surrounds the bears is accommodated to their needs.
“They have a spring pond; we have pools, grass, trees,” Monica told Inside Edition.
The bears aren’t cramped up to the confines of a house, and they shouldn’t be. The family knows that animals as big as them should have plenty of land to roam around and do as they please.
Monica’s husband, Johnny III, was the primary caretaker of the bears up until he passed away last year.
Johnny III was the earliest out of the group to bond with the bears. Though Monica was devastated to lose her husband of 37 years, she and her son pledged to continue caring for the bears in honor of the man.
“I plan on carrying his legacy as long as I’m alive,” Johnny IV told Barcroft.
Monica says that besides a few scratches, there has never been an incident with the bears and anyone from the outside.
“I’ve worked with bears for 37 years, and I have all my fingers,” she said.
But make no mistake — the family still knows that these are 1,000 pound animals, and they treat them as such.
Monica suggests that these bears might be safer with her than in the wild. According to National Geographic, six out of the eight bear species in the whole world are endangered.
This statistic only adds more purpose to her mission, which is to give these bears a long and happy life.
“Do I prefer bears to humans?” Monica said. “Actually, sometimes I do.”
Even if this is one of the rarest types of pets you could possibly have, it’s clear that the Weldes see them as just family members, and love them like they are, too.