TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2020 /CNW/ – World Animal Protection is advising people not to buy an exotic pet as a gift this holiday season. These animals include turtles, lizards and exotic birds, such as parrots.
The charity is concerned about an increased interest in these unique creatures due to tactics such as advertising, which portrays the idea that owning an exotic animal is trendy and cool. But nothing is further from the truth.
While most people want exotic pets because they appreciate animals, many don’t know that millions of these animals are either snatched from their natural environment or bred in captivity and suffer horribly from the exotic pet trade. It’s become a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to grow.
Exotic animals are often shipped long distances before reaching their new home. Mortality rates are thought to be high, one study suggests that 81% of reptiles die in the trade annually. If they survive, they continue to suffer in owners’ homes because they often are not provided with adequate food, space, and enrichment. This takes a toll on their mental and physical health.
Polling of Canadian exotic pet owners conducted by Strategic Communications Inc. showed that 43% surveyed acknowledged to have bought their animal on impulse.
Michèle Hamers, Wildlife Campaign Manager with World Animal Protection says, “It’s really pet stores, like PetSmart, that drive spontaneous purchasing behaviours because first time buyers tend to get their animals at those types of stores. Uninformed first-time owners only realize after they bring them home, that taking care of an exotic animal is difficult and expensive.”
When owners decide that they can no longer care for their exotic pet, they are disposed of at shelters or may end up being released into the environment, potentially causing harm to the ecosystem, as has happened with red- eared slider turtles.
There is also a risk for humans when purchasing an exotic pet because they can carry diseases that can be transmitted to their owner, such as salmonella.
It’s not hard to get a hold of an exotic animal either. People can buy them in stores, exotic pet expos and online. However, with exotic pet expos on hold due to COVID-19 and the numbers of customers in stores reduced, there is concern that more animals will be purchased online .This means more animals could suffer as a result because there is no oversight online.
World Animal Protection’s desktop research shows that there are over 300 exotic animal breeders in Canada who breed exotic birds, reptiles and small mammals.
Hamers adds that, “Most of these wild animals suffer at every step in the trade chain. The breeding and sales of exotic animals is often poorly regulated and many of these businesses operate according to their own standards. The truth is that captivity can never replace a natural environment and it’s nearly impossible to meet the complex needs of a wild animal to keep them happy and healthy. We understand most owners mean well, but wild animals do not belong in captivity, so please think twice this holiday season.”
For Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director of the animal welfare charity Zoocheck, the issue of exotic pet ownership hits close to home. As a youth he owned exotic pets, including reptiles and a wide variety of fish species. After years of keeping them, he realized the quality of their lives was not good, so he decided to stop buying them. Advocating for animals is now his lifelong passion.
He says, “Relationships established with a pet such as a cat or dog can be reciprocal and positive. Not so for most exotic animals. Relationships with them are typically very one-sided. The person who keeps an exotic animal may get an interesting hobby or a conversation piece, but the animal usually doesn’t get a lot in return except a life of boredom and deprivation.”
Both charities are hoping the Canadian government will help implement a ban on the global wildlife trade, including the exotic pet trade in Canada. The wildlife trade is a risk to animal welfare, biodiversity and public health, as has been evident with the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 70% of Canadians support a ban on the commercial wildlife trade. Banning the trade, could help prevent future pandemics and reduce suffering for millions of animals used as pets.
Notes to Editors:
See our full report on exotic pet ownership in Canada here .
About World Animal Protection
From our offices around the world, including China, Australia, Brazil, Kenya and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. Last year, we gave more than 3 billion animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming. For more information visit www.worldanimalprotection.ca
SOURCE World Animal Protection