Do you really need an exotic pet?

By | February 19, 2019

Australians love their pets; in fact we have one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world. However we might need to be a bit more thoughtful about the pets we own.

Exotic pets are wild animals such as snakes, lizards, birds, and ornamental fish, as opposed to common domesticated pets such as dogs and cats.

World Animal Protection (WAP) found that a quarter of exotic pet owners did no research before buying a wild animal as a pet.

It said that the global exotic pet trade is a growing multibillion-dollar industry that’s having a devastating impact on wildlife populations across the world.

This is backed by the Deopartment of Environment and Energy which said the illegal import of wildlife is known to be cruel and cause serious harm. Smuggled animals suffer stress, dehydration, or starvation and many more animals die than reach pet owners (WAP said nearly one third of all wild animals die during transportation).

In Australia, world, the most common exotic pets were found to be freshwater fish, exotic birds and small mammals. However, polling commissioned by WAP revealed more than half of Australian exotic pet owners didn’t realise their pet is exotic.

Simone Clarke, Executive Director ANZ for WAP said animals suffer at every step of the journey destined to people’s homes: from capture to handling, transport, holding, breeding, sale and the lifetime of captivity in the home.

“Most people buy exotic pets because they love animals – but any wild animal in the exotic pet trade experiences extreme suffering. 

“Once they are in people’s homes, there is no realistic way to replicate the space and freedom these animals would have in the wild.

The poll commissioned in December 2018 revealed the lack of understanding exotic pet owners had of the animals in their care:

  • 26 per cent of exotic pet owners did no research before buying their pet.
  • More than three quarters of exotic pet owners think that it’s true or true in some circumstances that wild animals kept in captivity as pets experience stress.
  • 13 per cent admitted that it’s mostly or completely false to say that the needs of their exotic pets can be fulfilled by their owners.

WAP urged people to not buy, own or breed a wild animal as a pet.

“Whether native or introduced, wild animals are not pets, they belong in the wild. No matter how good your intentions, a life in captivity is a life of suffering for wild animals,” Ms Clarke said.

“If you already have an exotic pet, do your research and learn how to give it the best life possible and make a commitment not to replace it with another wild animal.

“When given facts about the cruelty involved in the exotic pet trade and the suffering wild animals endure in captivity, more than half of exotic pet owners indicated they were somewhat or much less likely to buy another exotic pet in the future.

“A life in captivity is a world away from a life in the wild. With more education, we can end the demand for this cruel trade,” she said.

Buying an exotic animal might also lead to some hefty fines as well. 

The Department of Environment and Energy advised that you first check that the animal was imported legally to Australia, or is allowed to be owned in Australia. Australian states and territories have laws on the private keeping of exotic animals within their borders. 

Some of the exotic animals available in Australia have been imported illegally despite Australia’s strict import laws. Possessing illegally imported animals (or their offspring) is an offence under national environment law. 

By ensuring you are not buying or keeping illegally imported animals, you’ll not only be helping to protect Australia, and stop wildlife smuggling and related cruelty, but you will also be protecting yourself from fines.

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