For the second year running, the London Pet Show, due to take place on 12- 13 May at Earls Court Two, is heavily promoting the exotic pet trade. The Animal Protection Agency (APA) has condemned the Show promoters for being out of step with modern scientific evidence, which shows the harm inherent to exotic pet-keeping. Leading animal welfare groups and the veterinary community are becoming increasingly concerned about the suffering of wild animals in private ownership.
Exotic pets are wild, non-domesticated animals that thrive in specific ecosystems. In captivity, the natural environment of these animals is replaced by imprisonment in highly artificial and frequently harmful conditions that do not fulfil these animals complex and often poorly understood needs. This is why most reptiles die within one year in captivity.
The London Pet Show claims to be "all about education and information for existing and new owners." But APA claims that the key 'expert' speaker on exotic pets is not a vet or biologist but an unqualified amateur hobbyist and trader! One of the exotic animal section sponsors, 'Exo Terra', which also sponsors large European reptile markets, gained further notoriety earlier this year when members of an expedition it organised were arrested in Sri Lanka for illegally collecting wild animals - a fact that is unlikely to enhance the reputation of the London Pet Show!
Said Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency:
"Exotic pets are wild animals imprisoned in small cages for novelty entertainment. In our view, as long as it is promoting the exotic pet trade, the London Pet Show is not a place for genuine animal lovers. Any message intended to promote animal welfare should clearly discourage the keeping of exotic pets."
The promotional website shows clearly how exotic animal handling events are targeted at families with children, which accentuates public health concerns. The risk of disease transmission between exotic pets and people (particularly vulnerable groups such as children) is well-established. Hammersmith and Fulham Council were warned last year by the Animal Protection Agency that those attending the event could not avoid health threats from exotic animal contact. The agent responsible for devising the hygiene protocol in relation to animal handling at the event agreed.
Last year, Hammersmith and Fulham Council was unable to show that it could adequately protect the public and yet has failed to ban animal handling at this year’s event. A recent scientific paper published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research has made clear that exotic animal handling experiences should not be encouraged. But Hammersmith and Fulham Council appears to have thrown caution to the wind as far as public safety is concerned.
The Animal Protection Agency has written to the organisers of the London Pet Show to ask that, in the interests of animal welfare and public health, future events do not feature or promote exotic pets. APA has also contacted Hammersmith and Fulham Council to check what criteria are being used to assess exotic animal welfare and also to insist that members of the public are provided with guidance leaflets taken from the above scientific report informing them of the health risks associated with exotic pet handling. APA is offering free legal and medical advice to any member of the public who becomes ill within two weeks of attending the event.
The Animal Protection Agency has written to Hammersmith and Fulham Council and to all of its elected members enclosing the Journal of Environmental Health Research paper entitled, A review of captive exotic animal-linked zoonoses. This independent and scientific peer-reviewed paper contains new recommended public health guidance, which explains how to help avoid animal linked disease associated with exotic pets. These guidance leaflets have been agreed for public distribution by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Local Government Association. The Animal Protection Agency has requested that visitors to the London Pet Show are provided with these leaflets.