Eight in ten (81%) vets are concerned the needs of non-traditional pets such as reptiles, amphibians, birds or other “exotic” animals are not being met, with many citing owners being unable to properly care for them as one of the top reasons for welfare issues.
Sometimes known as “exotic pets”, non-traditional companion animals (NTCAs) can have exacting husbandry requirements, and complex social, cognitive, and nutritional needs, which may make them more challenging to keep as pets. Many also need specialist, expert veterinary care, which may not be available in every area. Some – such as primates – have needs which are so specialised they can rarely be met in a domestic environment. Some NTCAs also have certain heating, lighting or UV requirements which, given recent unpredictability in energy bills, may increase the cost to keep them.
New BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession research has revealed eight in ten (81%) vets are concerned that the welfare needs of these animals are not being met, with the most cited welfare issue being ‘irresponsible animal ownership’ (82%). Vets who treat NTCAs reported that more than half (58%) of the NTCAs they see do not have their five animal welfare needs met and 26% have seen a rise in the number brought in for treatment in the past year.
As well as urging anyone considering buying an NTCA to “think twice” before buying one, BVA has just launched a new policy position on NTCAs, developed by the BVA NTCA Working Group, which sets out the need to protect these animals and ensure their welfare needs can be met.
BVA Senior Vice President and zoo veterinary surgeon Justine Shotton said: “The welfare of non-traditional companion animals has long been a concern of many vets and this is demonstrated in our recent research. It is worrying that a quarter of vets are seeing an increase in the number brought in for treatment and sad to hear that so many cite irresponsible ownership as the top cause behind welfare issues. We know people who keep these animals have the right intentions to give them best care they can but their needs are so complex it can be difficult to do so, particularly if they are a new pet and owners are not sure exactly what they need. It is so important that potential buyers give careful consideration to buying such an animal before bringing one home. We’d also urge any vets who are approached by potential keepers for advice to strongly encourage them to do their research to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to care for them properly before buying an exotic species.”
Within the new policy position, BVA calls for more regulation of online sales and third-party advertising of NTCAs and an end to the import of wild-caught reptiles and amphibians for non-conservation reasons. BVA also recommends a pre-purchase test, both demonstrating a potential owner’s knowledge on how to properly care for an NTCA, and helping to improve education around the needs of the species.
Past BVA President and Chair of the Working Group Sean Wensley said: “The new policy position makes recommendations which will help to protect the welfare of NTCAs, including calling for improved regulation of their keeping and sale. It highlights issues such as the welfare risks of certain breeding practices and stresses the need to move away from the wild-capture of animals for the pet trade. Taken together, the 32 recommendations present a clear veterinary view on the ethical sourcing and care of these species.”
Read the policy position here: bva.co.uk/exoticpets