Pets in the EU: scale, protocols and online apprehension
The White Paper will be published in March, and seeks to provide guidance for a feasibility study on the EU wide positive list that will be undertaken by the EU Commission, as announced in the 2022 Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking. The main message is that the scope of the Action Plan should be extended when conducting the feasibility study. The Sapience report helps provide evidence as to why.
Sapience is a consultancy agency, specialised in psychological and behavioural research, that seeks to use the most appropriate methodology in order to capture unbiased behavioural insights. Sapience conducted research on the EU exotic pet trade and gathered data on the entry of exotic pets into the EU, their trade within the EU, as well as their keeping conditions. This research aims to gain the understanding of three areas of data:
- the number of exotic animals imported, traded and kept in the EU;
- the legislatives and proceeds variations between some selected EU Member States;
- and, the welfare challenges for exotic pets traded and kept in the EU.
In order to gain an overview of the EU exotic pet trade, Sapience approached and interviewed several stakeholders in selected EU Member States including; veterinary centres specialised in exotic animals, rescue centres, Border Control Posts (BCPs) and online vendors.
The study reports that the EU exotic pet trade involves at least millions of animals for the Member States selected. Moreover, in recent years, an increase in demand for exotic pets is correlated with an increase in the number of veterinarians specialising in exotic animals. The interviewed veterinarians reported a high variability in the quality of husbandry (care) provided by the pet owners, often because of misinformation, which is worrying for the pets welfare. Additionally, the online market investigation revealed interesting, and disgraceful results. The online sellers that were approached, in 94% of the cases, did not mention the existence of restrictions of the movement of pets across the different countries although some existed. Therefore, it is very likely that at least some of the exotic pet trade inside the EU is taking place without controls. Moreover, this investigation shows that a buyer can easily purchase animals that are illegal to keep in where they live. Regarding animal welfare, some issues arise as online vendors usually do not provide species-specific guidance or welfare consideration during transportation. Finally, this investigation also demonstrated that official data on the number of exotic animals imported, traded and kept in the EU is not easily accessible or available.
The issues raised by Sapience’s research demonstrate the importance of implementing an EU-wide positive list on the trading of pet animals. Indeed, a positive list will be an effective solution to harmonise the regulations through all the Member States, with the added advantage that the welfare conditions of all companion (pet) animals can be ensured. This harmonisation of legislations will likely ease the training of customs officers, aid the enforcement of control methods, ensure data accessibility, as well as facilitate monitoring of the pet trade internally. An EU-wide positive list is a feasible solution for the EU to take preventive measures for welfare, health and biodiversity reasons.