Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Animal charities call for review of online exotic pet trade

Exotic pet report

Two leading animal welfare organisations are calling for a Government review of the exotic pet trade, as a worrying new report reveals the huge scale of unsuitable and potentially dangerous animals widely available to buy online.

The One Click Away report1, compiled by Blue Cross pet charity and the Born Free Foundation, found that at any one moment across a sample of just 6 websites, there were around 25,000 adverts2 offering more than 120 types of exotic animals for sale online. Animals for sale included reptiles, exotic birds and primates, many of which are particularly vulnerable to welfare problems when kept as pets. With little or no regulation of online sales, the charities are concerned for the health and welfare of the animals available to inexperienced owners, as well as the safety of the public and want to see laws surrounding the sales of exotic pets brought up to date.

Very few adverts offered advice on the animals’ history or how to care for them, potentially leaving new owners unaware of health or behaviour problems and sellers are not required to state whether an animal could be harmful.

Steve Goody, Blue Cross Deputy Chief Executive, said: “This report shows the shocking scale of the exotic pet trade and the urgent need for action. For the inexperienced, it can be difficult to care for many of these animals in a domestic environment and as a result the animals’ welfare often suffers.

“With ever-increasing demand for more and more unusual pets and the huge growth in internet sales, it is high time for the Government to take action to ensure that this exotic pet industry is properly regulated.”

Of particular concern were:

  • Adverts not properly identifying the species for sale – of the 347 adverts selling lizards, 38% could not be identified as a particular species. Four adverts listed ‘various birds’ for sale
  • An advert for ’18 royal pythons in need of a quick sale’
  • Animals advertised as being in ‘poor health’ or offered as ‘swaps’ or for ‘quick sales’.
  • An advert for a boa constrictor with a history of aggression
  • Adverts for wild cats, including ocelots, serval, caracal and leopard cats.

Although existing laws in Britain - including the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Pet Animals Act 1951 - offer all pets a certain level of protection, there is confusion over their application and enforcement. The Pet Animals Act 1951, which controls the sale of animals in pet shops, was drafted long before the advent of the internet or the growth in popularity of exotic pets and, the charities are convinced, is no longer fit for purpose. Blue Cross and the Born Free Foundation would like to see this legislation amended to ensure that it becomes relevant and effective today.

Chris Draper, Programmes Manager for Captive Wild Animals at the Born Free Foundation said: “It is truly shocking how many exotic animals and of such diversity are available online, with so many advertised incorrectly or incompletely and with no indication of their often complex needs. The Government needs to review the Pet Animals Act as a priority to ensure people are made aware of the issues related to buying exotic pets online and we should urgently examine how these animals are faring in the pet trade.”

A roundtable discussion on the issue of exotic pet sales hosted by Angela Smith MP will take place on 4 November 2015, followed by a drop-in photo call hosted by Sir Roger Gale MP where MPswill pledge their support for a review of the exotic pet trade.

Angela Smith MP said: “As this report shows, the welfare of thousands of exotic pets is at risk and we need to act to change the situation for them. I am fully committed to raising awareness of this important issue and getting it onto the Government’s agenda.

Download the full report, One Click Away: An Investigation into the Online Sale of Exotic Pets

Born Free Foundation
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