Booming exotic pet trade – why restrictions are urgently needed

#Act4
Wildlife

Booming exotic pet trade – why restrictions are urgently needed

16 June 2016
AAP
News
An event in the European Parliament, hosted by Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (EPP, Finland) and organised in collaboration with Eurogroup for Animals, AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection and Pro Wildlife has focused on the EU’s role as a main destination for exotic pets – including primates, reptiles, and millions of ornamental fish.

Where do these animals come from? Where do they end up? How many of them just disappear? What are the risks related to this trade and what is needed to regulate it?

These issues have been debated with the contribution of independent scientists, experts from NGOs and the European Commission.

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP considers that “the recent notable shift from the more traditional, domesticated pet animals such as cats and dogs, toward species such as reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates as well as non-domestic birds, fish and mammals demands the prompt adoption of new regulations on their sale and keeping. The lack of appropriate legislation coupled with insufficient knowledge of some private keepers can undermine the welfare of the animals and pose a threat to human and animal health and biodiversity”.

Within the period 2004–2014, the EU Member States officially reported the import of more than 20 million live reptiles, according to EUROSTAT. Unfortunately, for other animals groups such data are not even recorded.

Whilst these numbers only reflect the legal part of trade, for rare species there is a growing illegal market: ‘Criminal gangs have specialised on species which are only protected in their country of origin, but not on an international level. Once successfully smuggled out of their range state, their sale here in the EU is legal according to the existing legislation. Some specimens reach prices of several thousand euros, which means maximum profit with minimal legal risk’, reports Sandra Altherr, co-founder of the Germany-based conservation NGO Pro Wildlife.

Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals, based in Brussels, promoted the concept of a Positive List: ‘Such a list would limit the range of species allowed to be kept to those assessed to be suitable for private households according to strict criteria of animal welfare, conservation and health reasons. This system is preventive at its core: this is the reason why Belgium and the Netherlands have  already established such lists for mammals and across Europe and beyond there is a growing interest for the Positive List as the ideal legislation to regulate the sale and keeping of animals as pets.’

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, with rescue centres in the Netherlands and Spain, takes in all sorts of exotic, non-domesticated mammals, many of them with a past as pets. Raquel Garcia, Head of Public Policy, presented the role of a rescue centre in identifying trends in the trade and offering practical solutions to public authorities to enable them to improve legislation. ‘The numbers of rescue requests from every corner of the EU and beyond are skyrocketing.  We need Member States to move faster and eventually a EU-wide approach to get this problem under control.’

The debate, that has been chaired by Mr Keith Taylor and by Mrs Anja Hazekamp MEPs, included other compelling contributions: Hélène Perier, Scientific Officer at the DG Environment of the European Commission gave an interesting overview on legal EU instruments and the EU’s initiatives for the next CITES[1] conference in September 2016, while Clifford Warwick, Biologist and Medical Scientist, provided an in-depth summary of the structure of the trade and resulting animal welfare and human health problems.

For more information please contact:
Ilaria di Silvestre : Programme Leader Wildlife : Email: idisilvestre@eurogroupforanimals.org

The numbers of rescue requests from every corner of the EU and beyond are skyrocketing. We need Member States to move faster and eventually a EU-wide approach to get this problem under control.
Raquel Garcia, Head of Public Policy at AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection
The post 'Booming exotic pet trade – why restrictions are urgently needed' is modified from an article published by Animal Advocacy and Protection in their original language.