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Action is needed to regulate online sale of exotic pets

November 6th 2015


North Thanet`s MP Sir Roger Gale has backed calls for more to be done to regulate the sale of exotic pets in the UK. Attending the launch in Parliament of ‘One Click Away’, a report into the online sale of exotic pets .Roger signed a pledge (see attached photo) calling on the Government to ‘undertake a review of exotic pet breeding, trade and keeping across the UK’, ‘improve the enforcement of all relevant legislation concerning the sale of exotic pets’ and ‘review the Pet Animals Act 1951 to reflect the increasing sale of animals over the internet’.

Sir Roger, the Chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare and an Honorary Full Member of the British Veterinary Association, said: “This new report makes it clear that much more needs to be done to improve the regulation of the sale of exotic pets in the UK. The Internet has made exotic pets available at the click of a button, resulting in both mis-selling and unsuitable and sometimes dangerous animals being made readily available to the general public. It’s clear from the new research that the welfare of exotic animals in the UK is often not being adequately met and that existing legislation and its enforcement falls short of protecting these often vulnerable animals.”

The report published jointly by animal welfare charities Blue Cross and the Born Free Foundation (available here:, finds that hundreds of exotic pets (at the time of the research) are available online on various websites, often poorly or incompletely listed, including:

- From a sample of 1,796 online ads, at least 53 different types of reptile, 37 types of exotic bird, 28 types of exotic mammal, and 7 types of amphibians were advertised for sale.

- Unsuitable animals, including potentially dangerous animals, are widely available for sale to the general public.

- Specialist advice on animal care and welfare is almost entirely lacking on most websites, and no checks are made on whether animals are sold to inexperienced owners.

- Animals considered particularly vulnerable to welfare problems in captivity, such as primates, chameleons and iguanas, were advertised for sale.

- There are considerable concerns for the welfare of the individual animals advertised; some individuals for sale were kept in inappropriate environments or were reported as being in “poor health”;or ads offered animals as “swaps” or “quick sales”.

- Sellers often provided insufficient information to enable identification of the species of animal for sale.

Steve Goody, Deputy Chief Executive of Blue Cross said:
“The findings of this report demonstrate beyond doubt the need for an urgent review of the regulation of the online sale of exotic animals as pets. Blue Cross cares for thousands of sick and injured animals each year and in recent years we have seen an increase in the number and variety of exotic pets brought to our hospitals, often requiring specialist care. With such pets available to anyone, it is a sad fact that these animals’ needs are often not met and as a result their welfare suffers. We challenge the Government to take action on this issue and ensure that steps are taken to protect the welfare of animals bought and sold online.”

The report calls upon the Government to undertake a number of key actions to ensure the welfare of exotic animals bought and sold online. These include:

- Calling for a review of the exotic pet trade: The Government in Westminster and devolved administrations should undertake a full review of the exotic pet trade, covering all aspects of ownership, including the breeding, trade and keeping of exotic animals across the UK.

- Calling for a review of the Pet Animals Act 1951: There is an urgent need for the Government to review and update the Pet Animals Act 1951 to reflect the large-scale and increasing sale of animals over the internet, and improved clarity on what premises should be licensed under act.

- Seeking an improvement in the enforcement of legislation: Many of the problems highlighted in the report can be improved through increased enforcement of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and EU Wildlife Trade Regulations (EC) 338/97. Sellers should be required to state if any species they are advertising require a Dangerous Wild Animals licence or an Article 10 certificate.

- Asking the Government to ensure stricter criteria for sellers: Websites should ensure sellers include greater specificity in listed adverts, including greater detail of the animal for sale. Exotic pets advertised online should, at the very least, be listed by their correct common name and state how many animals they are advertising for sale. Any site allowing adverts offering animals for sale should list basic welfare requirements that must be met by buyers and sellers, and any online seller with a pet shop licence should be made to state this on their adverts.

Chris Draper, Programmes Manager, the Born Free Foundation said: “It is truly shocking how many exotic animals are available online with so many advertised incorrectly or incompletely and with no indication of their often complex needs. The Government should review the Pet Animals Act 1951 to ensure that people are made aware of the issues related to buying exotic pets online, and to correctly enforce the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. This would go some way to improving the lives of exotic animals being bought and sold across the UK today.”

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