1.1. Volume of Animals and Diversity of Species in the Pet Trade and for Private Keeping
1.2. Animal Welfare and Consumer Issues
1.3. Public Health and Safety Risks
1.4. Species Conservation and Illegal Trade
1.5. Invasive Alien Species
1.6. Disease Threats to Wildlife and Agriculture
1.7. Our Study
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Desk Research
2.2.1. Online Surveys
2.2.2. Telephone Interviews
3.1. International and Federal (US and Canada) Legislation
3.2. Legislation in European Countries
3.3. Legislation in States of the US
3.4. Legislation in Canadian Provinces/Territories and Municipalities
3.5. Survey Results
3.5.1. Online Survey
3.5.2. Data from Telephone Interviews
- Theme 1: Perception that positive lists are a sound principleAll interview subjects endorsed the principle of positive lists—a predictable response given that all had been selected for interview on the basis of their interest in positive lists. References were made to positive lists as being a “good idea in principle” or a “better approach”. Two interviewees referred to the views of their colleagues along with their own: “it seems to have been accepted as the logical way forward” and “my colleagues were receptive to it overall. Now it is agreed that we should try to get positive lists through”. All interviewees pointed to perceived advantages of positive lists, including: “the legislation involved would probably be easier in terms of keeping it up to date” and “illegal trade will continue but it will be easier to control”.Two of the group, whilst acknowledging theoretical advantages of positive lists, had no immediate plans to pursue their adoption. One had concerns about the effect on amphibian and reptile keepers: “a positive list wouldn’t allow them to keep animals that they almost have a professional interest in”. Another subject saw positive lists as a possible long-term objective: “increasingly strict regulation is justified and perhaps a move towards the positive list in the future”.
- Theme 2: Perception that positive lists would offer legal clarityFour interview subjects raised concerns about current regulation that is inadequate, unclear, or difficult to enforce or oversee. One interviewee advised that they had no defined legislation on exotic pet ownership and that internet pet sales were unregulated. Positive lists were seen as “[meeting a] need to fill a gap in the legislation” as “[exotic pet ownership] is not regulated and not under any control”. Another interviewee explained that enforcement authorities had complained that legislation was unclear and that it was difficult for members of the public to know whether they could import or keep exotic animals. It was seen that positive lists would “clarify the situation for the citizens”. This point was echoed by another interviewee who stated that a positive list would mean greater clarity for the general public in terms of what they can or cannot keep. This interviewee went further: “at present, the identification of different species from all countries of the world represents a great problem at the control points since it requires specialised knowledge”. A fourth interviewee stated that “we have different legislation for animal welfare, species protection, public health. It would be helpful to have one statute that addresses all of these related issues. We can’t be specialists on everything. As bureaucrats we have to be familiar with all these pieces of legislation”.
- Theme 3: Perception that positive lists would benefit animal welfareFour interview subjects referred to perceived benefits of positive lists to animal welfare: “it would ban the keeping of unsuitable species” and “there would be more species kept with no welfare issues”. Interviewees referred to current problems that could be addressed by positive lists: “there are certain exotic animals that require specialist care. These could end up in the hands of anyone” (unless covered by relevant regulation) and “for our animal welfare checks we are having to do research or seek information from zoos. Violations are hard to prove”. One interviewee stated that: “we would like to prescribe which species are allowed for an ordinary person with ordinary knowledge, and what conditions need to be met”.
- Theme 4: Acknowledgement that there would likely be opposition from tradeFour interview subjects commented on their anticipated opposition to positive lists from exotic pet traders and hobbyists with varying degrees of concern. One interviewee stated: “the hobby organisations have reservations about it, which is understandable” In referring to a past consultation, one interviewee stated: “we had quite a backlash from the hobbyist community a few years ago”. Another interviewee affirmed that: “due to economic interests, the sectors involved will offer resistance and will oppose its application because what they are interested in is a market that is as free as possible for fauna”.
- Theme 5: Perception that positive lists may prevent exotic pet trade from getting out of controlThree interview subjects described their domestic exotic pet trade as “small” or “not a major problem”. Of these, one expressed concern that demand for exotic pets may increase in line with improved standards of living, and another confirmed that exotic pet keeping was already becoming more popular, adding that “we don’t want to become a country where people keep animals because it’s trendy”. In this context, positive lists were seen as an intervention with potential to bring the exotic pet trade under control. Two of these subjects described issues with animal imports from EU countries, and a lot of animals coming from exotic pet markets abroad. One interviewee explained that authorities were having to be reactive, as keepers and dealers could seek retrospective permission after animals had already been imported, whilst also acknowledging that imports brought to their attention may be the “tip of the iceberg”.
- Theme 6: Concern regarding species selection for positive listsThree out of the five interview subjects spoke about being daunted by the prospect of drawing up a positive list, describing it as “the biggest challenge”; “we have no expertise to make the list”; “how do you decide what animals go on the positive list?”. Two of the three interviewees stated that they would take a stepwise approach and start with a mammal list but anticipated greater difficulty in formulating lists for other taxonomic classes. One interviewee acknowledged that geographical climate considerations meant that they would not be able to simply replicate another country’s positive list.
4.1. The Precautionary Principle and Positive Lists
4.2. Legislative Review
4.3. Species Selection for Positive Lists
Species Assessment Systems
4.4. Comparison of Negative versus Positive Lists
4.5. Study Limitations and Future Research
4.6. Recommendations for Developing and Implementing Positive Lists
- Species selection criteria should take into account animal welfare; public health and safety; risk of invasiveness; conservation status and provenance. Availability of good quality, impartial husbandry guidance; local enforcement and veterinary expertise; appropriate rescue facilities should also be considered.
- Regardless of the system or process used to select species, positive lists should be developed by independent parties using scientific, evidence-based, and objective sources. Using an impartial species assessment system reduces suggestion of bias.
- In the interests of fairness, inclusivity, and transparency, species selection criteria should be published along with a description of the assessment processes and tools used.
- Where data on a species under assessment are conflicting, inconclusive or absent, the precautionary principle should apply, and the animal should not be listed.
- There should be a provision to add or remove species in the light of new scientific evidence, for which an application process should be in place.
- The burden of proof for adding species to a positive list should rest with the exploiter, using scientific, objective, and impartial evidence.
- Listings should be at species or sub-species level. Scientific names should be used alongside common names.
- Positive lists should be sufficiently concise for ease of enforcement and public compliance. In the interests of clarity, any negative lists should be subsidiary, and for monitoring purposes only.
- Transitional arrangements in the form of “grandfather provisions” should be in place to allow prohibited animals already in private ownership to be kept until they die. Such animals should be subject to a registration system and selling and breeding from them should be prohibited. Where species fail to meet positive list criteria and continue to be kept under a grandfather provision, guidelines could be applied in an endeavour to mitigate problems regarding animal welfare; public health and safety; species invasive risks.
- There should be no restriction on the ability of rescue shelters and sanctuaries to accommodate unwanted, abandoned or seized animals.
- Exemptions could apply for specialists to keep prohibited species. Such prospective keepers should be required to demonstrate that animals are kept as part of a scientifically managed conservation programme, or that they have a standard of expertise, appropriate facilities, and husbandry regimes to meet a high bar threshold.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Country or Region||Description of Animals||Number of Animals|
|European Union||Ornamental fishes|
|United States||Ornamental fishes|
|Region||Legislation||Negative List||Positive List|
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
|Regulates international trade in species listed in Appendices to prevent unsustainable exploitation.|
183 Parties to CITES from all regions of the world.
(Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats)
|Prohibits deliberate capture, keeping, and internal trade of species on Appendix II and regulates exploitation of species on Appendix III.|
Ratified by 50 countries in Europe and Africa, as well as the EU.
|Bonn Convention or CMS|
(Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals)
|Prohibits the capture of species listed on Appendix I.|
131 Parties from all regions of the world.
|European Union||EU Wildlife Trade Regulations|
(Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 865/2006)
|Implements CITES in the EU but also adopts stricter domestic measures for some species. Some non-CITES species may also be listed in line with EU internal legislation.|
|Wild Birds Directive|
(Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds)
|Implements the Bern Convention in the EU. Prevents the exploitation (including capture and sale) of most naturally occurring wild birds in the European Territory of the Member States.|
(Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora)
|Implements the Bern Convention in the EU. Prohibits the capture, keeping and sale of species listed in Annex IV(a).|
|The IAS Regulation|
(EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species)
|The list of species of Union concern contains animal species that are not permitted to be intentionally imported, kept, bred, traded, allowed to reproduce or released into the environment.|
|United States||Lacey Act|
(16 U.S.C. §§ 3371 et seq.)
|Prohibits the import and shipment between states of species determined to be injurious or invasive. The law covers all wildlife protected by CITES and more.|
|Captive Wildlife Safety Act||Amends the Lacey Act to specifically prohibit the import, export, transport, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and cougars, and all subspecies and hybrids of these species, across State lines or the U.S. border. The Act provides exemptions for certain individuals and entities.|
|Endangered Species Act of 1973|
(16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq.)
|Implements CITES within the United States. It prohibits the import and export of endangered species of fish or wildlife, the sale of endangered species in interstate or foreign commerce, the “take” of any such species, and the possession, sale, and transport of any species unlawfully “taken”, without a permit.|
|The Wild Bird Conservation Act|
(16 U.S.C. §§ 4901-4916)
|Limits or prohibits imports of certain exotic bird species. With the exception of excluded species and approved lists, the law prohibits the import of CITES-listed exotic birds. The law allows for the issuances of permits, which are generally not available for private “pet” ownership.||Provisions within the Act allow for a list of exempt species from approved captive-breeding programmes to be imported without a permit.|
|Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act|
(16 U.S.C. § 668-668c)
|Prohibits the take, possession, sale or offer to sell, purchase, barter, transport, and export or import, of any bald or golden eagle. The law allows for the issuances of permits, which are not available for private “pet” ownership.|
|United States||Migratory Bird Treaty Act|
(16 U.S.C. §§ 703-712)
|Prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation, and importation of migratory bird species native to the U.S. or U.S. territories except as authorised by permit.|
|Animal Health Protection Act|
(7 U.S.C. §§ 8301-8322)
|The Animal Health Protection Act authorises the government to prohibit imports of particular animals to prevent the introduction of “any pest or disease of livestock”. Pursuant to the Act, no person may import leopard, African spurred, or Bell’s hingeback tortoises into the United States, and limited bans have been imposed on other species from certain source countries.|
|Canada||Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act|
(S.C. 1992, c 52)
|Implements CITES agreements, including the import, export, and interprovincial transportation of CITES-listed species, and related permits.|
|Species at Risk Act|
(S.C. 2002, c 29)
|Regulates ownership and possession of extirpated, endangered and threatened native wildlife species.|
|Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994|
(S.C. 1994, c 22)
|Implements the 1916 US–Canada Migratory Birds Convention and protects species of birds covered by the Convention.|
|Canada Wildlife Act|
(R.S.C., 1985, c. W-9)
|The Regulations prohibit, without a permit, the possession of any native animal species.|
|Europe||Belgium-Brussels||Art 3bis Dierenbescherming en-welzijnswet http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_loi/change_lg.pl?language=fr&la=F&cn=2009071608&table_name=loi||Mammals||Animal welfare, public health and safety, IAS risk, availability of husbandry guidance|
|Belgium-Flanders||Art 3bis Dierenbescherming en-welzijnswet http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_loi/change_lg.pl?language=fr&la=F&cn=2009071608&table_name=loi|
Art 3bis of The Animal Protection and Welfare Act
|Animal welfare, public health and safety, availability of husbandry advice|
|Belgium-Wallonia||Art 3bis Dierenbescherming en—welzijnswet|
|Mammals||Animal welfare, public health and safety, IAS risk, availability of husbandry guidance|
|Croatia||Regulation NN 17/2017-404 of 2017|
|Birds, Fishes, Invertebrates||IAS risk|
|Luxembourg||Animal Protection Act: Grand Ducal Regulation |
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Animal welfare, public health and safety, IAS risk, availability of husbandry guidance|
|The Netherlands||Animals Act 2011|
|Mammals||Methodology to be agreed|
|Norway||Regulation on foreign organisms 2018|
Regulation prohibiting the import, trading and keeping of exotic animals 2017
|Animal welfare, human and animal health, IAS risk|
|Malta||Protection of animals offered in pet shops (minimum standards) regulations 2014. Restrictions apply only to sale of animals.|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes, Invertebrates||Animal welfare, public safety|
|United States||Alaska||Alaska Admin. Code tit. 5, § 92.029|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles||Animal welfare, public health and safety, conservation, IAS risk|
|Arkansas||Ark. Admin. Code § 002.00.1-|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Colorado||2 Colo. Code Regs. §406-11:1103|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Public health and safety, conservation, IAS risk|
|United States||Delaware||Delaware Admin. Code tit. 3|
903 Exotic Animal Regulations
|Mammals, Reptiles||Animal and human health and safety|
|Florida||Fla. Admin. Code r. 68A-6.001–68A-6.018|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Undetermined|
|Kentucky||Kentucky Administrative Regulations|
301 KY ADC 2:081(native wildlife)
301 KY ADC 2:082(exotic wildlife)
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Undetermined|
|Maine||09-137 Me. Code R. § 7-06|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
|Maryland||Md. Crim. Law § 18-219|
Md. Code Regs. 08.03.11.04
|Public health and safety|
|Massachusetts||321 Mass. Code Regs. 9.01-9.02|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Public health and safety, conservation, IAS risk, animal welfare|
|Montana||Mont. Code § 87-5-706 |
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Public health and safety, IAS risk|
|Nevada||Nev. Admin. Code 503.140|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, |
|New Hampshire||N.H. Code Admin. R. Fis 804.02|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Undetermined|
|New Jersey||NJ ADC 7:25-4.4 Exempted species|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Undetermined|
|United States||North Dakota||N.D. Admin. Code. 48.1-09-01-02 |
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Public health and safety, IAS risk|
|Oklahoma||Okla. Admin. Code 800:25-25-3|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
3.17 Appendix A: List of Exempt Exotic Animals and Native Wild Animals
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, |
|Tennessee||Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1660-01-18-.02|
Tenn. Code Ann. § 70-4-403
Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes
|Utah||Utah Admin. Code r. R657-3-2|
|Vermont||16-4 Vt. Code R. § 116|
Wild Bird and Animal Importation and Possession Unrestricted Wild Animal List.
Wild Bird and Animal Importation and Possession Domestic Species List
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates||Public health and safety, IAS risk, suitability as pets|
|Wisconsin||Wis. Stat. Ann. §169.04 |
|Reptiles, Amphibians, |
Mammals, Birds, Invertebrates
|Wyoming||Wyo. Admin. Code 040.0001.10 § 3|
(Search Game and Fish Commission, Chapter 10)
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
(Provinces and Territory)
|Alberta||Wildlife Act RSA 2000, c W-10; Wildlife Regulation (Alta Reg 143/1997)|
|Mammals, Birds, Amphibians||Undetermined|
|New Brunswick||Exotic Wildlife Regulation—Fish and Wildlife Act|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Animal welfare, species conservation, IAS risk, public safety|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Wild Life Act, RSNL 1990, c W-8|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||IAS risk|
(Provinces and Territory)
|Nova Scotia||Section 113(at) of the Wildlife Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c504 and Section 6 of the General Wildlife Regulations—Captive Wildlife Permit And Import Permit Exclusion List https://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/laws/pdf/App2.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Public health, species conservation|
|Saskatchewan||The Captive Wildlife Regulations, RRS c W-13.1 Reg 13 |
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Nunavut||Wildlife Act 2003|
Wildlife Act 1988 (replaced)
Wildlife Genera Regulations 1992
(Towns and municipalities)
|City of Kitchener||Animals—Regulation Chapter 408, 2016|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
|Town of Aurora||Town of Aurora, By-law Number 61 97-1 9, 2019|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
|Town of Newmarket||Town of Newmarket, By-law 2020-30|
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Public health and safety|
|Brossard||Règlement 219 relatif au controle des animaux https://www.brossard.ca/in/rest/annotationSVC/Attachment/attach_cmsUpload_65f94abb-63d1-419c-8d01-e5ca7bc759b1||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Chateauguay||Règlement G-018-17 relatif aux animaux et abrogeant le chapitre XIV du règlement G-2000 https://www.ville.chateauguay.qc.ca/sites/default/files/G_018-17_animaux_dangereux.pdf||Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates||Public safety|
|Règlement VS-R-2007-50 concernant les animaux sur le territoire de la ville de Saguenay https://ville.saguenay.ca/files/reglements_municipaux/animaux/ca_vs_r_2007_50.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Gatineau||Règlement numéro 183-2005 concernant la garde, le contrôle et le soin des animaux dans les limites de la ville de Gatineau http://www.tantelori.com/PDFs/PetLicense-FR-Gatineau-Regs-R-0183-2005-to-2012-04-23%20-Animaux%20(french-francais).pdf|
C-61.1, r. 5—Regulation respecting animals in captivity
|Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Public safety|
|Laval||Règlement numéro l-12430 Concernant les animaux 2017 https://www.laval.ca/Documents/Pages/Fr/Citoyens/reglements/reglements-codifies/reglement-l-12430.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Public safety|
(Towns and municipalities)
|Longueil||Règlement co-2008-523 sur le Contrôle des Animaux 2008 https://www.longueuil.quebec/sites/longueuil/files/reglements/co-2008-523_original.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Montréal||Règlement sur le Contrôle des Animaux 16-060 2016 http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/sel/sypre-consultation/afficherpdf?idDoc=27628&typeDoc=1||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians||Public safety, species conservation, animal welfare|
|Québec||Règlement sur les animaux domestiques (R.V.Q 1059) https://reglements.ville.quebec.qc.ca/fr/showdoc/cr/R.V.Q.1059||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes||Public safety|
|Rimouski||Règlement 44-2002 concernant les animaux https://rimouski.ca/storage/app/media/ville/administration/reglements-municipaux/Reglement_1094-2018.pdf||Mammals, Birds,|
|Saint-Hyacinthe||Règlement numéro 30 relatif aux animaux https://www.ville.st-hyacinthe.qc.ca/medias/services-aux-citoyens/reglementations/Regl30.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes||Undetermined|
|Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu||Règlement no. 0771 concernant la garde des animaux et abrogeant les règlements nos. 0291 et 0441 https://sjsr.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/codification-administrative-1742.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes||Public safety|
|Shawinigan||Règlement municipal, Titre 8: Garde et controle des animaux http://www.shawinigan.ca/Document/Fichiers%20PDF/Ville/Reglements/SH-1/Titre%208%20animaux%20(190107).pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Invertebrates||Undetermined|
|Sherbrooke||Règlement no. 1, Titre 5, chap. 10, sec. 2 https://contenu.maruche.ca/Fichiers/3337a882-4a53-e611-80ea-00155d09650f/Sites/333dd3d3-915d-e611-80ea-00155d09650f/Documents/Reglements%20municipaux/reglement-1.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes||Public safety|
|Trois-Rivières||Règlement sur la garde d’animaux (2014, chapitre 158) https://contenu.maruche.ca/Fichiers/d477a882-4a53-e611-80ea-00155d09650f/Sites/742ceda8-915d-e611-80ea-00155d09650f/Documents/Règlements/Reglement_sur_la_garde_d_animaux.pdf||Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Fishes||Public safety|
|Negative List System||Positive List System|
|No evidence base to show that permitted species are suitable pets, in terms of animal health and welfare, and safety of people and the environment.||Evidence-based species risk assessments offer consumer protection, animal health and welfare, and environmental safeguards.|
|Administrative complexity and difficulty for enforcers. Array of legislation and enforcement protocols requiring a high level of expertise.||Administrative simplicity and ease for enforcers. Greater clarity for public regarding which species can be legally kept assists compliance.|
|Wide diversity of permitted species with largely unreliable husbandry guidance or species that may be unable to thrive in captivity.||Reliable, and improving, husbandry guidance for established pet species.|
|Authorities forced to be reactive as new species come into trade or problems are identified. Burden of proof is on individual scientists, humane and other groups, societies, or governments.||Authorities able to take proactive measures. Species added to positive lists only after thorough risk assessments have been undertaken. Burden of proof for adding species is on the prospective exploiter.|
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