Peter Laufer's "Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets" is an unsympathetic view of people who own "big cats, great apes, and long snakes". Based largely on first person interviews, Laufer, a PhD in journalism, is actually more balanced in concern to reptiles than mammals. Written from his perspective (he uses "I" frequently), it is obvious that he doesn't understand pets in general, exotic or ordinary. Indeed, he often worries whether or not his family should possess a cat or a dog. He finds some solace in his cat's ability to leave or enter the house via a cat door and freewill.
Laufer continually returns to the theme that people who possess "big cats, great apes, and long snakes" want to "dominate" the animals. Chapter 15, "A Conscientious Merchant", is supposedly about Charles Thompson of Snakes'n'Adders, who deals with a variety of herps and helps a young couple in Laufer's presence with an "aggressive" cornsnake that was recently purchased. Needless to say, it was the couples' first snake, and they did not know how to approach and handle it properly, and the cornsnake was as tame as you would expect. Laufer, however, manages to incorporate an unrelated story of animal (reptile) cruelty and an apocryphal tale (related second hand from his wife) of a keeper who would peruse the community bulletin boards searching for children's accidental surplus baby mice to feed to his kingsnake. The mice would then become "a stripped skeleton". Laufer's misunderstanding of basic biology assures that he will never answer his own question of "What do you do with it?"
Though Laufer continually uses direct quotes from interviewees, he (subconsciously) cherry-picks his quotations and sources and reveals a bias of his academic, San Franciscan surroundings. His portrayal of big cats, great apes, and the people that deal with them are universally unflattering. His treatment of herpetoculture is more even, though he does manage to lump all reptile people under the same umbrella as people who keep burms and retics. He writes at length about invasive burms in the Everglades, and does a good job of presenting both alarmist and skeptical views on the issue. However, he thoroughly fails to appreciate the scope, diversity, and considerable history of all the invasive animals in Florida and unfairly singles out the reptile trade as the issue of concern.
"Forbidden Creatures" is a worthwhile read if only to remind those immersed in herpetoculture that a large segment of the general population remains ignorant (and fearful) of reptiles. That ignorance can be educated, well-researched, and powerful (in the case of Laufer specifically and journalists and politicians in general), should give all within the herp community pause. Laufer's fixation on "dominance" of animals clearly can't account for us who enjoy finding herps in the field, taking care of the captive reptiles within our possession, and fostering and rescuing of herps as needed. Do read "Forbidden Creatures" but don't reward the author by buying it. Check it out from the public library instead.