The unregulated exotic pet trade in the EU: a threat to health and biodiversity


The unregulated exotic pet trade in the EU: a threat to health and biodiversity

3 June 2021
Press Release
On June 3rd the Portuguese Presidency of the Council hosted an event co-organised by Eurogroup for Animals and AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, to explore the risks posed by the exotic pet trade in the EU and the opportunities for better regulation.

While the world is still coping with the devastating effects of COVID-19, the conversations around zoonoses have focused on the potential role of illegal wildlife trade in spreading pathogens. The threats issued from legal trade have largely been overlooked, when in fact they are at least three orders of magnitude larger than those of the illegal one.

That’s why Eurogroup for Animals and its member AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection co-organised the event The unregulated exotic pet trade in the EU: a threat to health and biodiversity, hosted by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

The event started with a video message from Ms Maria do Céu Antunes, Portuguese Minister of Agriculture, in which it was mentioned that “it is necessary to deepen the issue of animal welfare, which must be thought in an integrated and interdisciplinary approach. As consecrated in the concept called "One Health", which includes the guarantee of human health, animal health, plant health and environmental health, in a holistic perspective on ecosystems at various scales. Animal transport must be carried out according to health and welfare rules, in order not to compromise public and animal health. Working together to promote improvements in animal welfare is fundamental for building solutions to the global challenges we face, such as the spread of disease, resistance to antimicrobials, among others that arise and result from climate change. Our success will always depend on a permanent dialogue and our close cooperation to create more and better tools and to reinforce harmonisation. So, as before, we will continue to work together”.

The opening speech was followed by experts' presentations and a debate between European Commission and  Member States’ representatives. The conversations stressed the health risks to EU citizens posed by the unregulated exotic pet trade, since the growing trend for exotic pet keeping has significantly increased the likelihood of spillover events in the EU

Besides the health risks, the exotic pet trade also poses threats to biodiversity, causing wildlife populations decline and risk of disease transmission to native wild animals. Finally, the lack of appropriate legislation on exotic pets may result also in severe animal welfare problems

With the EU Green Deal and the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, the EU has the opportunity and the duty to reduce the risks associated with the exotic pet trade, while showing global leadership to reverse the devastating impacts of human activities on nature and biodiversity. The scope of the new Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan should be expanded and explore avenues to properly regulate the trade in wild animals.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.

The event was also the opportunity to launch AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection new publication Infected and undetected: Zoonoses and exotic pets in the EU which offers an overview of the role that exotic mammals kept as pets in EU Member States, and rescued by AAP, play in the transmission of zoonotic diseases. 

Our analysis reveals that roughly one in seven exotic pets rescued by AAP in the past five years carried at least one potentially dangerous zoonotic pathogen. In the case of rescued stray animals, the incidence of potentially dangerous zoonotic pathogens was a staggering 50%. These findings corroborate that the current EU regulatory framework is insufficiently equipped to prevent, detect and respond to the zoonotic disease risks posed by the exotic pet trade. A more precautionary approach, in the form of an EU Positive List, is urgently needed.

David van Gennep, CEO, AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection.



The event’s agenda
Infected and undetected: Zoonoses and exotic pets in the EU
Exotic pet trade: analysis of the problems and identification of solutions
Analysis of national legislation related to the keeping and sale of exotic pets in Europe

Press contacts

Agnese Marcon, Interim Communications Manager, Eurogroup for Animals
+32 (0) 456 078 038

Peter de Haan, Press Officer AAP 
+31 (0)6 1775 2325

Eurogroup for Animals represents 70 animal advocacy organisations in 26 EU Member States, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, Australia and the USA. Since its inception in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals reflects public opinion through its membership organisations’ affiliations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare. 

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection is a European animal welfare organization dedicated to exotic mammals such as primates, raccoons, lions and tigers. Numerous exotic animals don't live animal-worthy lives and human actions are often the cause. They are still being trafficked, kept as pets or abused in tourism and entertainment. AAP advocates for better animal welfare legislation throughout Europe and offers shelter in the Netherlands and Spain for exotic animals in need. When ready, they are outplaced to a new forever home. Thus creating space for other animals in need.