Tuesday 23 July 2019

Calls for tougher regulation around exotic pets after Customs officers intercept unusual package

One of the eight fire salamanders intercepted by Custom Officers in Dublin. Photo: ISPCA
One of the eight fire salamanders intercepted by Custom Officers in Dublin. Photo: ISPCA

Markus Krug

The ISPCA is calling for tougher regulations around exotic pets after several fire salamanders and an exotic toad had been intercepted by Customs officers in Dublin.

Customs had intercepted a post shipment from Spain that contained eight fire salamanders and a natterjack toad that had been illegally imported.

Fire salamanders can be hosts of a newly emerged and highly pathogenic chytrid fungus that is a huge threat for populations of domestic salamanders.

In the light of these discoveries, ISPCA Chief inspector Conor Dowling has stressed the general issues behind keeping exotic animals as pets.

"We are raising serious concerns about the poor standard of care provided to exotic animals that need specific environmental and nutritional requirements," he said.

"We had the case of a pet shop for example. Two tortoises had been kept in the same habitat. But they were actually different species needing different temperatures and levels of humidity."

With new animals being smuggled in from other countries and other exotic pets being abandoned in Ireland, the ISPCA is recording more and more animal discoveries in Ireland.

Over the last year, several stray snakes had been spotted, including the most recent discovery of an emaciated Burmese python in the Wicklow Mountains. Similarly, ISPCA inspectors have seized several tortoises, axolotls and terrapins.

(Photo: ISPCA)
(Photo: ISPCA)

"These animals are frequently allowed to suffer, sometimes unwittingly, by owners who simply do not have the knowledge to care for them properly," said Chief inspector Dowling.

He further highlighted an issue with terrapins and certain reptiles: "There can be a huge disparity between the size of exotic animals when they are babies and when they are fully mature."

In order to prevent animals suffering from abandonment and inept care, the ISPCA is calling for certain regulatory measures.

"The ISPCA believes that a mandatory code of practice or specific legislation needs to be urgently introduced.

"We would also like to see a positive list as an orientation for people; meaning a list of animals that can be kept. It can still be a bit tricky but keeping them adequately can be done.

"Additionally, there are some animals where we believe that can’t be done, like primates or crocodiles. Particularly the social requirements for primates are impossible to achieve in a domestic environment as a pet," said Mr Dowling.

He urged people to get the necessary information before and after the acquisition of an exotic pet.

"People need to do their research before they go and get an exotic animal. The best thing is to speak with a specialist pet shop that has the necessary knowledge and passes it on to potential buyers.

"And if you are worried about your pet then there are specialist vets out there that can help you and give you guidance. Bring it to your vet and get it checked out to make sure the animal gets what it needs," he added.

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