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18 Terrifying Stories Of Pets Who Turned On Their Owners

Updated May 12, 2020 1.9m views18 items

Even with training and domestication, pets have been known to turn on their owners. Sadly, this is all the more common with exotic animals that are difficult or impossible to train, such as lions, bears, and snakes. These stories are tragic, usually of devoted guardians attempting to simply do what can't be done - tame a wild beast.

Pets who have turned on their humans include a famous chimpanzee, various reptiles, a hippo that inspired a TV special, bears, and even spiders. Some of these cases are the result of obvious bad ideas, but many were just animal owners who had fallen in love with an exotic creature and paid the ultimate price.

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  • A Pet Deer Gored Its Owner
    Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    A Pet Deer Gored Its Owner

    Texas resident Gerald Rushton kept a 500-pound red stag deer in a pen in his backyard. Despite the fact that deer are illegal to keep in Texas and extremely dangerous, Rushton was attempting to domesticate the animal and keep it as a pet. The attempt failed, as the deer gored and trampled Rushton to death.

    Game wardens arrived on the scene and put the deer down, but Rushton could not be saved.

  • Gypsy The Burmese Python Strangled A Toddler

    In 2009, Jaren Hare and Charles Darnell owned a pet python named Gypsy, and its cage was only covered by a quilt. The Florida residents insisted on keeping it, and the snake escaped, wrapping itself around Hare's two-year-old daughter and killing her. 

    Animal experts believed the snake hadn't been fed in a month and was severely underweight when it tried to eat the girl. Hare and Darnell were arrested, and while their attorney tried to argue that the snake had always been docile, a jury convicted them of third-degree murder, manslaughter, and child neglect. They were each sent to prison for 12 years.

  • A Pet Mountain Lion Attacked A Child In Texas

    Amber Michelle Couch, had already received citations from the animal control department of Odessa, TX, related to her 150-pound pet mountain lion. The animal wasn't current on his vaccinations and his cage was too small for his size. Not only that, but the gaps in between the bars were too wide - a safety hazard to anyone who got close.

    In October 2011, a young boy got too close to the cage and the lion jabbed a paw through the gaps, slashing the child's face and his left side. The child survived, but the lion was put down.

  • Humphrey The Hippo Ate His Owner

    In 2011, former South African Army major Marius Els was savagely bitten by his pet hippopotamus, Humphrey. Els had adopted the 1.2-ton creature when it was just five months old, after the animal was rescued from a flood, and had attempted to domesticate it. "Humphrey's like a son to me, he's just like a human," he told a reporter earlier in the year. "There's a relationship between me and Humphrey and that's what some people don't understand."

    Humphrey had already done his share of damage, breaking out of his pen many times, chasing golfers, and more. African authorities caution people not to keep hippos as pets, as they're impossible to train, can run 30 miles per hour, and cause more deaths than almost every other wild animal in the country combined.