Written by Michael W. Miller, DVM
Newt Scamander is a world-renown magizoologist. His life’s work resulted in the creation of a textbook used by students taking the Care of Magical Creatures class at Hogwarts. His accomplishments paint an image of a talented man who champions the importance of the beasts of the wizarding world.
However, the original Fantastic Beasts movie reveals that Newt may have had some flaws. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he sets a bad example for wizards who love magical creatures. His visit to America showcases why Newt Scamander is an irresponsible pet owner.
Okay, I know that statement just upset a lot of Newt’s fans. It was difficult for me to even type it because my initial viewing of the first Fantastic Beasts movie made me a Scamander fanboy who almost completely forgot about his previous obsession with Hagrid (who could also be considered irresponsible). But, please humor me as I review how Newt’s infatuation with his fantastic beasts actually blinds him to reality. It’s a condition all animal lovers are susceptible to.
As Newt steps off the boat when he enters New York City, his briefcase shows signs that it may not be the best choice for transporting magical creatures. A latch flips open – never a good sign for an animal carrier that is supposed to be secure. Soon after we see two little paws sneak through the crack as Newt’s adorable niffler makes his escape.
If Newt had entered the lobby of your hospital and let his animal escape from the carrier, you may consider him an irresponsible pet owner. Pets freely scurrying around the waiting room are a headache to veterinary professionals. So many things can go wrong. Those owners who bring their pets in faulty transportation devices may cause the vet staff to label them as a negligent pet owners.
But, sometimes we judge too quickly. Did Newt really expect his niffler to escape? Does he deserve to be labeled as neglectful if he was unaware of the insecure carrier? Maybe we need to take a step back and give him a chance to learn from this mishap to make himself a better pet owner.
Another mistake Newt makes is bringing his niffler around temptation, and thus setting that niffler up to fail. Newt knows that nifflers become frenzied around shiny objects, so why does he bring the niffler near a bank!?
If you have a dog who will constantly jump on counters to get to your food, you aren’t going to let that dog loose in the kitchen while you’re cooking a full holiday meal. The niffler and the dog are unable to control their urges, so it’s up to the owner to keep them out of trouble. People who continue to put their animals in situations that get them into trouble, could be considered very reckless. Whereas the niffler may just get bloated with coins and gold bars, the dog could end up with life threatening foreign body ingestion or pancreatitis. Blaming the animal in these situations overlooks the responsibility the animal owner inherits as part of the unwritten ethical code of pet ownership. So, do you think we should label Newt as irresponsible because of this?
Now on to my biggest reason for calling Newt an irresponsible pet owner: because he endangers people.
Newt continually puts people in harm’s way as he prioritizes the welfare of his fantastic beasts. When Newt first invites the no-mag Jacob Kowalski into his briefcase to see his creatures, Newt does not take any safety precautions to protect Jacob. Newt is pre-occupied tending to his animals and doesn’t see Jacob head towards the dangerous obscurus. If you owned a lion and took a friend for a tour of your place but then let them unknowingly wander in to the lion’s den, you would definitely be considered negligent!
When several of Newt’s creatures escape his briefcase, one specific quote displays Newt’s blind love for his fantastic beasts. He tells Jacob, “Find everyone who escaped before they get hurt… They are currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet: humans.”
Although this quote provides an insightful conservationist viewpoint (which would take another whole blog to discuss), it also shows that Newt cares more about the welfare of his fantastic beasts than the safety of any human his creatures may encounter. This is a dangerous mentality that many animal lovers are susceptible to. I’ll admit that I’m prone to it. Some days I love animals more than people.
Caring deeply about animals is wonderful, but blindly ignoring the harm dangerous creatures can cause to people is inconsiderate. Responsible pet owners can love their pets but also respect the danger they pose to other people. Personally, because I love my adorable but sometimes aggressive dog, I take special precautions to keep him out of situations where he could injure somebody.
I think Newt is learning this balance during the first Fantastic Beasts film. By the end, when he boards the ship to leave New York, Newt has an extra piece of twine tied around his briefcase. That may not seem like much (although maybe it’s a magical string with niffler-proof properties), but it does show that he understands his responsibility to control his magical creatures.
Newt is brilliant, but he can be irresponsible when distracted by his emotional attachment to his fantastic beasts. We can learn from Newt’s mistakes to help us discover the magic needed to balance the love we have for our animals with the respect we should be showing to our fellow human beings who may be put in harm’s way if we don’t take appropriate precautions.
Maybe as magical veterinary professionals, it is our job to share Newt Scamander’s lessons with our clients so that they can keep both their pets and other people safe.