How we put a spotlight on the exotic pet trade in 2021
We won’t let these animals be silent victims.
By Michèle Hamers, our Wildlife. Not Pets campaign manager
There are an estimated 1.4 million wild animals kept as pets in Canada. Exotic pets are big business and despite the negative impact it has on animal welfare, public health and the environment, the exotic pet industry wants you to believe it’s normal. Whether these animals are caught from the wild or bred here in Canada, they suffer in the trade. Most recent examples reported in the media are exposing the many issues in the exotic pet trade.
This past November, an estimated 700 reptiles and amphibians died in a house fire in south Edmonton. During the heat wave in British Columbia, more than 100 small mammals and reptiles died because they didn’t have access to air conditioning. We have seen more exotic pet escapes and abandonments this summer than ever before. Sadly, these are not positive stories but they help to shine a light and bring awareness to the destructive trade.
How is it possible that these animals are left unprotected? There are several reasons why, including the lack of preventative, comprehensive and effective regulations that bans or curbs this destructive trade. The house fire in Edmonton is a key example. There is no prohibition on the breeding of these animals, nor the keeping of a large number of animals in a resident as long as the animals who are being kept are legal.
Aggressive marketing from the exotic pet industry, letting people believe that these animals are easy to take care for and labelling them as beginner pets is another reason why more wild animals end up as exotic pets.
This is one of the reasons we launched our public campaign against PetSmart. They are contributing to the problem and profiting of it. The animals they sell are seen as inventory, not as individuals. Thanks to the thousands of people who supported our campaign, public support to increase protection for exotic animals is growing and we’re seeing more media attention on our campaign and this issue more broadly.
In addition to keeping the pressure on PetSmart, we’re also seeing a response from municipalities and provinces. Over the years our supporters and other animal lovers have contacted their local representatives and made this a priority issue. This year, we helped achieve stronger regulations in Saskatchewan to curb the trade of wild animals, we advised the City of Winnipeg on a model bylaw to restrict the keeping of exotic pets, and we advocated for animals on the Ontario Animal Welfare Advisory. This would not have been possible without your voice.
As we approach the holidays, one thing we can all do is to remind people not to give exotic pets as gifts this holiday season.