Lions and tigers and bears? Oh my! But don’t be scared if you have West B. Artope along with you if you happen to encounter any of these carnivorous creatures. He knows the ways of animals from aardvarks to zebras.
Artope, 45, is a highly recognized animal behaviorist, trainer and consultant. Along with working for a private practice, he also has his own animal consultant business, Pet-Ology LLC, and lectures on interactions between animals and people.
Working with animals for well over 30 years, he’s also a veterinary nurse and says that he always loved animals since he was a youth growing up in the Bronx.
“I found my niche when I was young,” he said. “I naturally had an ability to deal with animals.”
When he was a child, he said, his home became a shelter for many abandoned animals in the neighborhood that he would bring home. Stray animals became a passion for him, especially stray dogs.
“I was always into animals and I always seemed to bring them home, but my mother was averse to it,” he said. “But she saw it was something that wouldn’t stop.”
Artope wanted to make a career out of his love for animals but did not want to become a veterinarian. He was more into the behavior of animals. He took his love for animals and decided to see what professionals did. When he was a teenager, he observed dog training schools and was invited to learn more about canines.
“I took that training and put it under my belt,” he said. “That’s when I saw the beauty of training animals. That’s what made me go to school for animals.”
He went on to Howard University, where he earned his degree in zoology. As he learned more about different kinds of animals, he developed a love for exotic animals. He especially grew a love for primates, big cats and large reptiles.
While the average person might want to see a monkey, lion or anaconda at a zoo, Artope said that he loves the adrenaline of dealing with exotic animals.
“I’ve always loved exotic animals. I love the danger in dealing with them too. It takes more time and patience to understand those types of animals, and it’s not a personal thing. If you approach them correctly, they will communicate and give you as much joy as domesticated animals,” he said.
However, while Artope is a trained professional, he advises the average person to not keep exotic animals in their home because of the dangers. This was evident in 2003 when a public housing resident in Harlem was keeping a 450-pound tiger and 5-foot alligator in his home and got bit. Artope was called in to handle the situation and successfully got the tiger tranquilized and removed from the home safely. The alligator was also removed safely.
The heroic act garnered Artope national attention, putting him in the spotlight on Animal Planet, the History Channel’s “MonsterQuest” and ABC’s “The View.”
Along with working with animals, Artope is also a champion when it comes to physical fitness and working with kids. He takes time out of his schedule to teach kids the sport of boxing. He also provides a program that allows kids to get up close and personal with animals.
“My goals are to really be able to help kids as much as possible and teach them as much as possible through whatever I’m doing,” he said.
Artope has also done some performing in theatrical productions. He and wife have been married for over 15 years, and they have two children. And in case you were wondering, Artope’s pets include four dogs, three birds, a kingsnake, two pythons and a small monkey.