New report reveals serious disease risk from keeping wild animals as pets

(02.11.2011) A Eurogroup for Animals report  illustrates the high risk of zoonoses from wild animals kept as pets.

Eurogroup for Animals Zoonoses are diseases which are passed from animals to humans with sometimes fatal consequences. With an ever growing number of these animals imported, sold and kept in the EU the threat of disease increases and prevention policies are becoming urgent.

At a meeting of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Animal Welfare in Strasbourg, MEPs were asked to support measures to restrict the import of wild animals.

Raccoons, snakes, gerbils, and iguanas are popular new companion animals which are often kept within the house and handled by children. Owners are often unaware that with the new pet comes a great risk of illness.

From life threatening viruses such as rabies and the plague to salmonella and tuberculosis, this report provides an overview of the main diseases and the animals that carry them.

"The new Animal Welfare Strategy being prepared by the European Commission and due to be adopted in December should include the protection of companion animals, including restrictions on the keeping of wild animals as pets.

In addition the Animal Health law due next year should also include provisions to assess the risk posed by wild animals and place restrictions on imports,” said Staci McLennan, Policy Officer Policy – Wild Animals at Eurogroup for Animals.

The legal market for wild animals globally accounts for millions of birds, apes, and amphibians with the EU as the second largest importer of live reptiles in the world.

In addition the illegal trade in wildlife is comparable with drug and arms trafficking. It is very difficult to dismantle illegal trade networks as with any organised crime and to be successful this needs coordinated law enforcement actions.

Justin Gosling of the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme also speaking at the event supported the call for an increased response to the threat of organised crime stating: “Enforcement agencies should adopt intelligence led enforcement methods to combat wildlife trafficking.”

The wild animal pet trade is not only a serious health risk for humans, it is also an ecological disaster, as most species are caught in the wild, and an animal welfare catastrophe, as millions of wild animals are forced into inappropriate role of a pet.

With living conditions unsuitable for wild animals and animals suffering from inappropriate care and handling many are abandoned with very little chance of finding new owners. 

Illegal trade needs to be prevented in order that animal no longer suffer and the risk of spreading disease is minimised.

Download: Eurogroup for Animals Report

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