Exotic pet rules to be reviewed by Scottish government

Iguana Image copyright ONEKIND

A review of the trade and importation of exotic animals as pets in Scotland is to be carried out.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the plan following talks with animal welfare charity OneKind.

It will examine how imported, and native, species can be better protected and consider the impact tighter legislation could have.

It comes amid concerns over the sale of non-domesticated animals like monkeys, meerkats and snakes on the internet.

There have been several recent cases of exotic animals being abandoned, such as a monitor lizard found in a supermarket toilet in Edinburgh and a snake which slithered into a legal office in Clydebank.

Mr Lochhead said: "There is an increasing desire across Europe, including in Scotland, to keep exotic pets.

"There are potential threats to animal health and welfare, human health and our native species that accompany this trend and merit serious investigation.

"Current legislation in Scotland already provides protection for the welfare of exotic animals kept as pets, forbids the release of non-native animals and also has the power to ban the sale or keeping of certain invasive species.

"However, I feel that perhaps more can be done to protect not only the exotic animals that are being brought into the country, but our own native animals and environment."

Image copyright Scottish SPCA
Image caption A monitor lizard was found climbing out of a white sack in the disabled toilets in an Asda store in Edinburgh

The environment secretary said he would seek views and advice from animal welfare groups, veterinary organisations and biologists across the country.

The review will consider the possibility of introducing a "positive list" approach which gives a single list of animals that may be kept as pets.

Under current legislation there is a "negative list" where access to certain specific species is prohibited or subject to a requirement for licence due to concerns surrounding invasive potential or public safety.

More than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of fish species, are sold in the pet trade.

Libby Anderson, OneKind policy director, said: "We are delighted that the cabinet secretary has taken our concerns about the animal welfare and conservation issues surrounding exotic, non-domesticated pets so seriously.

"OneKind believes that the most effective means of solving these problems is to limit the quest for evermore unusual specimens as so-called pets.

"We recommend the introduction of a positive list system to identify those animals that are suitable for private keeping, and prohibit or stringently license the keeping of all other types. Obviously, exceptions can be made for certain specialist purposes."

The Scottish government is planning to conduct a wider review of pet welfare, including the breeding and sale of animals for the pet trade, and it is likely that the review of the exotic pet trade will be addressed as part of this project.

Issues around the sale of various animals online will also be looked at as part of the review of pet welfare.

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