Orchard Vet's Blog

Advice on exotic pets


Exotic animals are increasingly popular as pets, but they raise important concerns about the welfare of both animals and owners.

There is no reliable figure for the number of exotics kept as pets in this country, but in 2014 Heathrow recorded 200,000 reptiles passing through its Animal Reception Centre. The RSPCA has suggested that lizards have now overtaken horses and ponies in popularity. Moreover, a Press Association report in May of this year found that councils had issued 4,500 licences under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which covers the conditions under which people can keep such animals as primates, big cats, crocodiles, and venomous snakes and spiders. Cannock Chase Council, for example, has issued licences for three tigers and two lions.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised a number of concerns with this trend, including the impact on the natural population in the wild and its related eco-system. But its greatest concern is the impact on the animals themselves: stress caused by capture and transportation, poor acclimatisation in the new environment, and the consequences of the lack of an owner's expertise or equipment to care for the animal. Indeed, the RSPCA has also expressed concern that the focus of councils in issuing Dangerous Wild Animal licences is too often on public safety rather than the well-being of the animal involved.

Non-traditional pets can carry a variety of bugs, microbes and parasites that can pass zoonotic diseases on to humans, including salmonella, ringworm and tuberculosis. Understandably, GPs are unlikely to associate illness with an exotic pet but this can lead to misdiagnoses. Reptiles, including tortoises, carry salmonella in their gut which can be easliy passed on, leading Public Health England to offer the very practical advice 'don't kiss your pet reptiles however cute they are'!

The BVA has issued a number of statements concerning the keeping and breeding of exotic animals. They are, for example part of a coalition with charities including the RSPCA, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals' Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind, and Wild Futures, campaigning against the keeping and trade of primates as pets. The BVA highlight ignorance of animal needs as a priority issue but at least in this Orchard Vets are able to help. We are proud to have a General Practitioner in Exotic Animal Practice within our ranks so, should you start thinking about acquiring a non-traditional pet, whether a bearded dragon or a lemur, please come in for a chat so that you are fully aware of all the issues. §


You can read the RSPCA's advice on keeping exotic pets here and you can read about the BVA's policy here.