Given the Cold Shoulder: A Review of the Scientific Literature for Evidence of Reptile Sentience
Animal Welfare Consultancy, 11 Orleigh Cross, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 2FX, UK
Brooke, 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3M 5JE, UK
World Animal Protection, 5th Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Rd, London WC1X 8HB, UK
The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 June 2019
Revised: 3 October 2019
Accepted: 6 October 2019
Published: 17 October 2019
Reptiles are popular pets around the world, although their welfare requirements in captivity are not always met, due in part to an apparent lack of awareness of their needs. Herein, we searched a selection of the scientific literature for evidence of, and explorations into, reptile sentience. We used these findings to highlight: (1) how reptiles are recognised as being capable of a range of feelings; (2) what implications this has for the pet trade; and (3) what future research is needed to help maximise their captive welfare. We found 37 studies that assumed reptiles to be capable of the following emotions and states; anxiety, stress, distress, excitement, fear, frustration, pain, and suffering. We also found four articles that explored and found evidence for the capacity of reptiles to feel pleasure, emotion, and anxiety. These findings have direct implications for how reptiles are treated in captivity, as a better understanding of their sentience is critical in providing them with the best quality of life possible.