OVER RECENT YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A GROWING TREND TOWARDS KEEPING EXOTIC ANIMALS INSTEAD OF TRADITIONAL PETS, PLACING THE EU AS A TOP IMPORTER OF TROPICAL FISH, REPTILES, BIRDS AND MAMMALS.
There are more than 200 million pets in Europe, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians. However, many species, especially exotic animals, are unsuited to a life in captivity. This may result in severe animal welfare problems and can also be detrimental to biodiversity, have a negative impact on public health, and present a danger to the health of other animals. Therefore, the increase in keeping exotic pets can lead to high costs across many sectors.
Yet there is minimal EU legislation to protect their welfare, monitor non-CITES trade (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and safeguard the health of humans and other animals from exotic animals. In addition, the regulation of the private keeping and sale of wild animals is left to the national legislation of the EU Member States. While all of these countries do have an animal protection law, the level of protection, the animals covered, and the rules related to the private keeping and sale of exotic animals vary greatly from one country to another.
Keeping exotic animals as pets raises a number of concerns. Our primary concern is animal welfare; exotic pets have complex needs, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the average owner to provide specialised care, diet and housing to meet their needs. Cases of exotic pets suffering from inadequate nutrition, injuries from misuse of artificial heating or lights, behavioural problems and inappropriate medical care are commonplace.
The capture of wild animals for the pet trade, the destruction of their natural habitat and the introduction of invasive species are significant factors driving biodiversity loss worldwide. We have an ethical obligation to ensure exotic animals are not introduced to areas where they can establish and may be subjected to inhumane controls. An additional concern is that animals may be procured by methods that cause suffering, such as in the case of wild-caught animals or species that are intensively bred for the pet trade. Finally, exotic pets can be carriers of serious diseases transmissible to humans and other animals, and can pose safety risks (for example, predatory, aggressive or poisonous animals).
This campaign, which is run over a longer time period, aims to reduce the number of exotic animals being kept as pets, while improving the welfare of those that remain, by targeting three areas:
- Positive lists to restrict the keeping and sale of exotic pets
- Increased welfare provisions and prevention measures in EU regulations on Invasive Alien Species, Animal Health Law, Animal Welfare Framework Law and within Trade Agreements
- Targeted education to raise awareness of pet owners on making suitable choices
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