Today, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), representing veterinarians from 38 countries, have called upon the governments of European nations to restrict the keeping of exotic animals as pets. Whilst dogs and domestic cats may be the most conventional and numerous companion animals, or ‘pets’, wild animals, such as snakes and lizards, parrots and even meerkats and monkeys, are increasingly in demand across homes in Europe. Wild in nature and often unpredictable, these animals not only require specialised care, but they are potentially dangerous to people, can inflict severe physical injury and transmit harmful diseases. If abandoned, or if they escape, they can pose a threat to the natural environment.
Concerned by the growing demand for exotic animals as pets and the risks to both animals and the public, as well as the increasing demand placed on the veterinary profession to diagnose and treat exotic illnesses, the FVE is advocating the establishment of ‘ Animal Lists’ that restrict and in certain cases, prohibit the keeping of some animal species.
Christophe Buhot, President of the FVE explains, “Veterinarians in Europe are increasingly concerned about the surge in wild and exotic species being kept in the homes of European citizens. People are buying these animals, often without a thought given to their biology, behaviour or living requirements and, unsurprisingly, some of these animals soon become ill, or even die. In addition, some of these animals might even pose a health or safety risk to their keepers. The expectation on veterinary professionals to provide species-specific information and advice accordingly, is high, but, some of these animals are simply not suitable to be kept.” Dr Buhot concludes, “In order to avert the suffering of animals, and these very real threats to the welfare of the public, our members are calling for limitations in exotic animal keeping as the most viable solution.”
Veterinarians are dedicated to actively promoting health and welfare for animals and humans and FVE strongly wishes to collaboratively work with all stakeholders and EU Institutions towards those objectives. Two European countries, Belgium and the Netherlands, have already established a ‘positive list’ of mammals, clarifying which animal species are permitted to be kept by private individuals. The positive list has been incorporated in their national legislation and forms the basis of regulations relating to the import and keeping of these species in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is hoped that other European countries will follow.
ENDCAP, which opposes the keeping of wild pets, has welcomed this statement from the FVE. Daniel Turner, spokesperson for ENDCAP, said, “The position taken by European veterinarians today could not be clearer: exotic animals such as monkeys and meerkats, parrots and snakes must be restricted and in some cases, prohibited.” Turner continues, “Europe is one of the largest international markets for wild animals and annual records indicate that legal imports include approximately 1.5 billion ornamental fish; 10 million live reptiles; millions of captive-bred birds and small mammals (such as prairie dogs and meerkats); and increasing numbers of non-human primates. The establishment of positive species lists, like those used in Belgium and the Netherlands, will not only protect the animals and the public, but further, the sustainability of biodiversity and natural habitats around the world.”
ENDCAP’s report, ‘Wild Pets in the European Union’, provides an insight into the legal and illegal trade in and keeping of wild animal pets in European households. It provides evidence that these animals pose a threat to their often inexperienced keepers, other animals, indigenous species and the natural environment.
ENDCAP makes the following recommendations:
- The European Community (both the Commission and Member States) urgently review the impacts caused by the ongoing trade in wild pets in relation to biodiversity, alien species, public safety and animal welfare;
- Appropriate and immediate action be taken to harmonise animal protection regulations across the EU;
- Import controls be extended to include certification that the capture, storage and shipping of wild animals does not result in animal suffering as a result of injuries and mortality;
- Additional measures be adopted to guarantee appropriate minimum captive wild animal welfare standards;
- The introduction of measures to exclude wild-caught animals from the pet trade;
- Provisions to ensure that all risks to animal and human health and safety are minimised;
- Serious consideration be given to the introduction of a ban on the import of all wild animals as ‘pets’.
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