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Scotland to Review Exotic Pet Trade

16 February 2015

SCOTLAND, UK - The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, has committed to a review of the trade and importations of exotic animals for the pet trade in Scotland.

Following discussions with animal welfare charity OneKind, where it was revealed that currently more than 1000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of fish species, are involved in the pet trade, Mr Lochhead is keen to review current legislation and explore the effect tighter controls on exotic pet ownership could have.

He said: “There is an increasing desire across Europe, including in Scotland, to keep exotic pets. There are potential threats to animal health and welfare, human health and our native species that accompany this trend and merit serious investigation.

“Current legislation in Scotland already provides protection for the welfare of exotic animals kept as pets, forbids the release of non-native animals and also has the power to ban the sale or keeping of certain invasive species.

“However I feel that perhaps more can be done to protect not only the exotic animals that are being brought into the country, but our own native animals and environment. That is why I am publicly committing to a review of the trade and importation of exotic animals as pets in Scotland and I will be asking for the thoughts and advice of animal welfare groups, veterinary organisations and biologists across the country in due course.

“Calls have been made for new approaches to be taken at EU level and I would like to see Scotland taking the lead in supporting this.”

The trade of non-domesticated animals on the Internet is a key concern for animal welfare charities. A range of pets, including monkeys, pygmy hedgehogs, sugar gliders, meerkats, raccoons and raccoon dogs, iguanas and chameleons, turtles and terrapins, boas, and pythons are available from sellers around the world, with few guarantees around responsible sourcing or animal welfare.

There have also been several cases of exotic animal abandonment in Scotland to date, including bearded dragons which were discovered in supermarket toilets, and a snake that found its way into a legal office in Clydebank. Examples reported by the Scottish SPCA last year included a Chinese water dragon, five corn snakes, four terrapins, and a six-foot boa constrictor among others were apparently abandoned or lost.

Libby Anderson, OneKind policy director said: “We are delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has taken our concerns about the animal welfare and conservation issues surrounding exotic, non-domesticated pets so seriously.

“OneKind believes that the most effective means of solving these problems is to limit the quest for evermore unusual specimens as so-called pets. We recommend the introduction of a positive list system to identify those animals that are suitable for private keeping, and prohibit or stringently license the keeping of all other types. Obviously exceptions can be made for certain specialist purposes.

“Belgium and the Netherlands already have legislation of this type and welfare organisations across Europe are promoting the positive list approach.”

Ultimately the Scottish Government considers it the responsibility of individual pet owners to ensure that they have the knowledge, facilities and resources to care for any pet before they take it on, and to make every effort to buy their pet from a responsible breeder or dealer.

However, it is planning to conduct a wider review of pet welfare, including the breeding and sale of animals for the pet trade. It is likely that the review of the exotic pet trade will be addressed as part of this project, and the positive list approach that has been developed in the Netherlands and Belgium is something that will be considered as part of the review.

The Scottish Government acknowledges that there are serious issues surrounding the Internet sales of a variety of animals and this issue will also be looked at as part of the review of pet welfare. However, it is worth noting that excellent progress has already been made with some well-known websites by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, which has developed and implemented minimum standards for websites advertising animals for sale.

ThePetSite News Desk



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