Born Free welcomes the recommendations of the SAWC

1 December 2022


In its widely anticipated report published recently, the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) has recommended:
  • The development of a positive list of species deemed suitable to be kept as pets in Scotland
  • A ban on the importation of wild-caught animals for the exotic pet trade.

A photo of a common marmoset looking through the bars of their cage.

The Scottish Government announced in 2015 that it intended to review the trade and importation of exotic pets, citing potential threats to animal health and welfare, human health and native species in Scotland. The responsibility for compiling the review was given to the SAWC. The SAWC’s final report considered animal welfare issues surrounding the keeping of “exotic pets” in Scotland and the potential need for further regulation.

In 2021, Born Free and the RSPCA produced a joint report, The Exotic Pet-demic: UK’s ticking timebomb exposed, in which we emphasised that the extensive trade in and keeping of exotic wild animals in the UK presents a ‘ticking time bomb’ for animal welfare, species conservation and human and animal health. The report presented strong evidence that the private keeping of exotic wild animals has significant consequences for animal welfare, species conservation, animal and human health, and environmental integrity, and called for urgent changes in the law. Born Free also frequently reports on the number of Dangerous Wild Animals privately kept under licence throughout Britain.

We welcome the news that two of our report’s recommendations also form part of the recommendations put forward by the SAWC.

Positive lists have been implemented in several European countries including Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands, while other countries including France have adopted similar legislation and are in the process of developing their list. In October 2022, a motion for a Resolution on improving EU regulation relating to the keeping of wild and exotic animals as pets in the European Union through the development of an EU positive list was adopted in the European Parliament, and will be voted on at an upcoming plenary session. By contrast, the UK and its devolved administrations operate negative list systems, where any species can be kept unless specifically banned by legislation or subject to a licence requirement. As a result, the scale and scope of wild animals kept as pets is poorly understood.

Born Free has written to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands to emphasise the progressive recommendations emerging from the SAWC and to seek further clarification on how the Scottish Government plans to move forward.


Images: © Joanna_Harker (Getty Images) / sandergroffen (Getty Images)