Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Exotic Pets - UK

It is thought that there are tens of thousands of exotic pets kept by private individuals in the UK. The range of species kept as pets has greatly increased over the past decades. In theory, anyone can keep any animal species, although certain restrictions may be imposed by legislation relating to endangered species and/or status as a threat to humans. For example, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 requires the licensing of any animal listed on its schedule of dangerous species, such as big cats, bears, venomous snakes etc.. The Act is first and foremost public health and safety legislation, and covers animal welfare only secondarily.  The Act only covers those species that are assessed to be dangerous to humans, which does not include the most commonly kept species of primates in the UK (such as marmosets), for example. This means that the ownership of such animals is largely unregulated. 

Exotic pets are available from a variety of sources. There are more than 2000 licensed pet shops in the UK; and the majority sell at least some exotic birds, mammals, reptiles or amphibians. In some cases, these even include primates, meerkats, crocodiles and venomous snakes.

We are increasingly concerned by the number of exotic pets available for sale online. The demand for exotic pets fuels both the legal and illegal wildlife trade, with many of the animals available online thought to have been caught in the wild. The ease of buying any pet online is a cause for concern as it is often impossible to know the animal’s history. The online pet trade is largely unregulated and sellers may advertise animals suffering from health or behavioural problems. The sale of animals online and in shops allows for purchases to be made on impulse and without guaranteeing the necessary space, equipment or knowledge to care for them correctly.

The Born Free Foundation is concerned that the welfare needs of wild animals kept as pets cannot be met. A wild animal in captivity has the same needs as its counterparts living in the wild, and extremely specialist care may be needed to maintain them in captivity to even a reasonable level of welfare. Unfortunately, most pet owners are ill-equipped, inexperienced and lacking the knowledge of the fundamental behavioural and environmental needs of the animal. 

Born Free is calling on the UK Government to review the current legislation relating to the sale and keeping of exotic animals. Ultimately we would like to see a restriction on the sale of exotic pets and the banning of the keeping of certain species including primates.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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