SUBMISSION TO THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT REVIEW OF EXOTIC PETS

REVIEW OF EXOTIC PETS BY THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

The trade in exotic pets, vertebrates and invertebrates, should be prohibited for the following reasons:-

1) WILD  Exotic pets are wild creatures. Even if they are captive bred, they retain wild instincts. Domestic animals have become domesticated over thousands of years. Exotic animals are confined because they are wild by nature (as well as because they can be dangerous and they are often alien species).

2) CONFINEMENT  Wild animals deserve a life or freedom in the wild. It is not fair to the animal that it must be caged/confined for life.

3) DEPRIVATION  The exotic pet trade caters to the enjoyment that people get from exotic creatures. For this enjoyment, the animal has to give up its freedom, its behavioural instincts, its ability to make choices, in fact it is totally dependent on the knowledge/ignorance, good will/ bad temper, wealth/poverty etc..of its owner. The enjoyment of people is being put above the needs and welfare of vulnerable animals.

4) DANGEROUS  Some exotic pets can be dangerous, or are perceived to be dangerous. This is another reason why they are confined. I don’t think that potential buyers are made aware of the risks that they are legally responsible for.

5) SPECIAL NEEDS  Many thousands of unwanted domestic animals are rescued every year by the animal rescue organisations. Also, many cases of abuses of domestic animals have to be dealt with constantly. These are animals whose needs are much simpler than the needs of exotic pets. Yet look at the neglect and abuse resulting from the domestic pet trade. Exotic pets are even more vulnerable to neglect and abuse because of the extra and specialist care required for their welfare. Exotic animals have complex social, physical and behavioural needs. Even with the best intentions, the special needs required by exotic pets cannot be properly accommodated, so their welfare will suffer. With reptiles for instance, it is known that the wrong amount of humidity or light can cause respiratory disease, fungal infections, rickets or mouth-rot. The wrong amount of heat can burn them, the wrong litter can poison them and they are prone to malnutrition from the wrong type of feeding.

6) VULNERABLE  Once these animals are taken home, they are completely at the mercy of their captors. No check is ever made on them, no-one knows or cares what happens to them. The RSPCA will tell you ‘’Exotic pets often end up in our care after people realise they’re not easy to care for (or once the novelty wears off)’’. And the Captive Animal Protection Society  – ‘’When the excitement of an exotic pet fades or owners realise how difficult and expensive it is to care for them, many animals are abandoned’’. Should the economic situation of the buyer change for the worse, the pet will be the first to suffer. And it’s not possible to check on whether the buyer can afford to maintain the purchase. These animals  need specialist vets, who are few and far between, and expensive. They may crave lots of attention, or companions of their own kind. Such needs are likely to be ignored. The most likely outcome is that these animals will be left with minimum attention in their cages/tanks for the rest of their lives.

Most people will know someone whose exotic pet died in an accident; a problem with the electricity supply causing fish to boil to death, or hedgehog stepped/sat on, or a lizard killed by the family dog, a bird killed by the family cat. Accidents happen, but they shouldn’t be allowed to happen to animals who lack the freedom to escape their problems, and who are completely unsuitable for the lifestyle that’s forced on them.

The RSPCA receives thousands of calls every year about exotic pets. It is reasonable to assume that this is the tip of the ice-berg, as most problems will be covered up, and no-one will know about them (or care enough to act, or have the persistence necessary to get the RSPCA to act).

7) INVASIVE  Exotic pets pose an ecological threat because they are alien to the natural environment. The EU suffers billions of euros in damage each year from invasive alien species (IAS), plus more millions to remove them or reduce their impact. . There are many well known cases of IAS causing problems in various countries, and the pet trade must share the blame . Humane Society International – ‘’The global exotic pet trade is a significant source of IAS’’. In this country, the RSPCA, talking about how exotic pets end up in their care, says ‘’..others are rescued after they’ve escaped or been released on purpose’’. Some exotic pets will inevitably either escape or be dumped in the local area.  I think that the licensing authority should be held responsible for the costs of remedial action in such cases.

8) PUBLIC HEALTH  Exotic pets are a threat to public health.  Wildlife Conservation Society, USA – ‘’The global trade in wildlife provides disease transmission mechanisms that not only cause human disease outbreaks but also threaten livestock, international trade, rural livelihoods, native wildlife populations and the health of ecosystems’’. Various laws have been enacted in various countries around the world in an attempt to combat the public health risks of exotic pets. I think that the licensing authorities should be held responsible for public health problems that arise from the keeping of exotic pets in their areas.

9) IRRESPONSIBLE SELLING  I do not think that prospective buyers, especially online buyers, are made aware of their responsibilities concerning the legal risks, the health risks and the ecological risks they run in buying an exotic pet, nor on how expensive maintenance can be, nor on how much work could be entailed, and I do not think that care information is given prominence. I do not think that this trade has adequate checks on sellers, especially online, concerning the source of the animals, and on buyers, especially online, that they are responsible and not impulsive buyers, and I think that profits are put ahead of welfare to the extent that free trade is everything and animal welfare is disregarded.

I think that the potential for suffering which the exotic pet trade holds is justification for banning it. The benefit of the doubt should be given to the vulnerable, not to the privileged.

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This submission is not reliant on statistics, which the rescue societies are competent in supplying. It is reliant on arguments, which I hope you will consider.

21-11-16 Virginia Bell Catholic Action for Animals