Scientists call for a ban on exotic pet markets across the EU to protect animal welfare, public health and biodiversity

A new independent scientific report, released today, has resulted in calls for an EU-wide ban on exotic pet markets to protect animal welfare, public health and biodiversity. The report, commissioned by the Animal Protection Agency, International Animal Rescue, Eurogroup for Animals and other European animal protection groups, was this week presented to Caroline Lucas MP and Keith Taylor MEP. 

Scientists investigated amphibian and reptile markets across Europe and carried out onsite inspections of key events in the UK, Germany and Spain. In the UK, scientists visited the Doncaster Dome on 18 September 2011. Stress-related behaviours were commonly observed in the animals and the report described the conditions and treatment of the vast majority of amphibians and reptiles as ‘tantamount to animal abuse’.  It was noted that veterinarians charged with inspecting the animals had failed to identify systematic welfare problems.
The report also highlighted the health risks to attendees. Reptiles and amphibians typically carry germs that contaminate their general environment and, within a short period of time, probably spread to humans with a potential of causing infections. Also, of concern was the risk involved in subsequently hiring out venues contaminated by reptile and amphibian events for a variety other purposes, including activities involving children.

Says Caroline Lucas MP:

“Since selling pets in the street and markets was banned in 1983, so much has been done by local councils, animal welfare groups and the courts to almost eradicate the practice. Yet animal sellers have tried numerous tactics in their attempts to continue their trade, and a handful of councils have yet to recognise and take action to stop commercial animal trading disguised as an innocent hobby. This is why urgent action is needed now.”

Says Keith Taylor MEP:

Selling wild animals in bad conditions on market stalls is both inhumane and unnecessary. It is bad for the animals, who frequently show signs of stress, and also bad for human health. Non-native species are becoming a major environmental concern and exotic pet markets can only add to this problem. It is crucial that the European Commission takes action to tackle this issue.”

Another important finding of the study was that these markets provide a key route for exotic amphibians and reptiles (captive-bred, as well as wild-caught) to spread throughout the EU and impact on local ecosystems - at great cost to EU economies. The report will be presented to the European Commission, which is currently considering measures to address Invasive Alien Species.

The report is available to download from and (also attached)

  • For further information or images, please contact Elaine Toland on 01273 674253 or out of hours on 07986 535024.

Notes to Editors:

  • In the UK, the sale of pet animals at markets was outlawed in a 1983 amendment to the Pet Animals Act 1951, which states that:

“If any person carries on a business of selling animals as pets in any part of a street or public place, or at a stall or barrow in a market, he shall be guilty of an offence.”

Many pet traders who operate at markets claim that their business is legitimate because they describe themselves as ‘hobbyists’. However, selling animals on a repeated basis constitutes carrying on a business by way of ‘degree of repetition’, in law. According to the report authors, “most sellers were commercial traders whether or not their activities were declared or formalised.”

  • The following reptile and amphibian markets are planned to take place this year:

Castle Green Sports Centre, Gale St, Dagenham, Essex RM9 4UN (12 May 2012)

Doncaster Dome, Big Hall, Doncaster Lakeside, Bawtry Rd, Doncaster, South Yorkshire DN4 7PD (17 June and 23 September 2012)

St Walstan Hall at the Norfolk Showground, Dereham Road, Costessey, Norwich, Norfolk NR5 0TT (8 July 2012)

Wyre Forest Glades Leisure Centre, Bromsgrove Street, Kidderminster, Worcs DY10 1PP (29 July and 25 November 2012)

Kempton Park Racecourse, Staines Rd East, Sunbury on Thames, Surrey TW16 5AQ (19 August 2012)

Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, Victoria Rd, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1FG (30 September 2012)

Havant Leisure Centre, Civic Centre Rd, Havant, Portsmouth, Hants PO9 2AY (no date announced yet)

  • The report ‘Amphibian and Reptile Pet Markets in the EU: An Investigation and Assessment’ was sponsored by: The Animal Protection Agency (UK), Animal Public (Germany), Eurogroup for Animals (Belgium), Eurogroup for Wildlife and Laboratory Animals (Belgium), Fundacion para la Adopcion, el Apadrinamiento y la Defensa de los Animales (Spain), International Animal Rescue (UK) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Germany).
  • Details of report authors are as follows:

Phillip C Arena BSc (Hons) PhD (Reptile and Amphibian Anatomy and Physiology)

Catrina Steedman BSc (Hons) (Psychology) AMSB (Reptile Biology)

Clifford Warwick DipMedSci (Medicine, Zoonoses) CBiol (Reptile Biology) FSB (Reptile Biology)

Animal Protection Agency

Brighton Media Centre, 15-17 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL

Tel: 01273 674253 


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