Major new restrictions on exotic pet keeping in Holland raise hopes UK will follow

(Animal Protection Agency Press Release) A new Dutch regulation came into force on 1st February 2015 that limits the type of animals that can be kept as pets. Animals not included on the new ‘Positive List’ cannot be legally kept or may only be kept with a special permit.

The Animal Protection Agency (APA), which campaigns against the trade in wild animals as pets, has greatly welcomed this new legislation and hopes that the UK (DEFRA and the devolved administrations) will also adopt this proven, practical and pragmatic approach.

First to be listed are mammals, although reptiles and birds will follow. The UK pet trade offers a diverse range of exotic mammals, including meerkats, sugar gliders, sloths, skunks, kinkajous, fennec foxes (below) and several primate species, which can be purchased without the need for a licence.

fennec-fox-2

According to leading animal welfare scientists, exotic species are essentially wild animals that do not adapt to captivity and are therefore not suitable pets. Unfortunately, although they have complex care needs and require specialised and expensive husbandry and veterinary care, traders often wrongly promote exotic mammals as ‘easy pets’.

Exotic pets can also pose health and safety risks to their keepers and, if escaped or released, can damage the environment.

A positive list for mammals has been in force in Belgium since 2001, where it has been highly effective — illegal trade has reduced and fewer animals go to rescue shelters.

Many other European countries are now considering positive lists. The Animal Protection Agency has, for some years, been pressing for the adoption of positive lists in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

The University of Wageningen developed the scientific method used to build the positive list, in which animal behavioural needs are a key feature.

The positive list favours domesticated species such as: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, brown rats, house mice, horses, donkeys, pigs, cattle and sheep.

Stichting AAP (AAP Foundation), a leading rescue facility in Almere in Holland that specialises in primates and other exotic mammals, has been campaigning for a positive list for 22 years.

The Foundation sat on the expert panel that gathered available scientific and practical information about the animals. The State Secretary for Economic Affairs made the final decision as to whether to place an animal on the positive list.

Says David van Gennep, Executive Director of Stichting AAP : “We’re very happy with this list. AAP is faced on a daily basis with owners who want to get rid of their exotic pet, because the animal was an ill-conceived, impulsive purchase.

“Raccoons, skunks or even kinkajous: You wouldn’t believe the range of animals that get brought in here. The situation is so serious that the demand for housing facilities is considerably higher than the capacity of our rescue centers.

“We expect the Positive List to improve the welfare situation of the animals.”

Says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency: “One only has to compare the natural life of a meerkat, which has evolved to live in large social groups, hunt for a variety of foods and reside in intricate underground burrows to see that these mammals, and many other exotic species, do not belong in the pet trade. Simples!

“The Dutch positive list shines more light at the end of the tunnel for anyone dealing with the fallout of the exotic pet trade, which has long been out of control.”

The Dutch positive list permits owners of prohibited species to keep their animals until they die but trading or breeding from their animals is not allowed. Anyone who acquires a prohibited species risks prosecution and having their animal confiscated.

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