European Exotic Pet Campaign
Over recent years there has been a growing trend away from keeping traditional pets towards exotic animals, placing the EU as a top importer of tropical fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
About the issue
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 impacts of keeping exotic pets can have high costs across many sectors.
Yet there is minimal EU legislation to protect their welfare, monitor non-CITES trade, 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 EU Member States’ national legislation. While all countries 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.
The keeping of exotic animals as pets raises a number of concerns. Our primary concern is animal welfare, asexotic pets have complex needs making it difficult, if not impossible, for the average owner to provide specialized care, diet and housing to meet their needs. Examples of exotic pets suffering from inadequate nutrition, injuries from misuse of artificial heating/lights, behavioral 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 (e.g. predatory, aggressive or poisonous animals).
Our goal with this campaign is to reduce the number of exotic animals being kept as pets and increase the welfare of those exotic animals being kept as pets. This is why Eurogroup will target 3 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, possible Animal Welfare Framework Law and within Trade Agreements; and targeted education to raise awareness of pet owners on making suitable choices.
(Credit for pictures used in this campaign: flickr.com - Baby Baboons/Environment Blog, Treed Raccoons/Molajen, Barbary Macaque/Graphic Reality, African Genet/Char1iej)