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Press Release October 2013

Exotic pet market cancelled by racecourse but APA warns event may go underground

A reptile and amphibian market due to take place this Sunday (27th October) has been cancelled by the venue, Fontwell Park Racecourse, on advice from Arun District Council. Although the event was billed as a ‘private breeders meeting’, the Animal Protection Agency (APA) provided evidence to Arun District Council that the event would constitute an animal market and that trading of animals at the event would be unlawful. APA now fears that exotic pet market organisers may now, at the last minute, be searching for a new venue and warns local venue managers against hosting the event.

The Pet Animals Act 1951 (Section 2) states that ‘if anyone carries on a business of selling animals as pets ….at a stall or barrow in a market, he shall be guilty of an offence’. The licensing and legal teams, on receipt of evidence from APA provided information to the racecourse, which included details relating to the Council’s interpretation of the legislation in relation to the proposed activities. Consequently, Fontwell Park Racecourse advised the Council that they had taken the decision to cancel the event.

Enforcement of Section 2 of the Pet Animals Act has improved in recent years. The legislation prevents pet animals from being traded in temporary and makeshift environments, which could cause the animals to suffer. A recent prosecution brought by Doncaster Council resulted in a formal caution being issued to a trader who initially described himself as a private breeder, but finally admitted to ‘carrying on a business’ of selling pet animals at a market.

APA has welcomed the prompt and effective action taken by Arun District Council and Fontwell Park Racecourse to thwart illegal trading in wild animals. However, so far, no statement has been issued by the event organisers to advise traders and potential customers that the event will not now take place. This has led to fears that the organisers may attempt to find another last-minute venue and post details online after 5pm on Friday to avoid council inspection and enforcement. This has happened several times previously with similar events. APA has warned venue managers against hosting this event and has appealed for information from anyone approached by the event organisers.

APA further hopes that other racecourse venues around the UK (Doncaster, Kempton Park and Chepstow) where exotic pet markets have taken place will follow the good example set by Fontwell Park. Despite the recent prosecution, Doncaster Racecourse continues to host exotic pet markets, with the next event due to take place on 3 November 2013.

Says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency:

“A recent scientific study showed that the conditions and treatment of the vast majority of amphibians and reptiles at markets was, in the view of the authors, ‘tantamount to animal abuse’. Action taken by Arun District Council and Fontwell Park Racecourse means that thousands of animals have been potentially spared this ordeal, which is great news! We just hope now that the organisers don’t attempt to stage their event elsewhere.”

Reptile and amphibian markets also pose a risk to public health, given the high risk of germs transferring from animals to people. A recent paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded that reptile and amphibian markets in the UK and elsewhere in Europe ‘constitute a significant and major public health concern’.