Over the last few decades, exotic-pet keeping has increased greatly. So has concern over the welfare of pets, especially exotic pets.
It is widely recognised that inadequate husbandry is the primary contributor to illness of many exotic-animal species presented to veterinary practices. Surveys in Germany, Australia and the UK confirm widespread husbandry deficiencies for some species.
Numerous factors contribute to the poor welfare of exotic animals:
• The wide variety of species easily obtainable with no, or minimal, legal restriction on species ownership.
• Keeping species unsuited to captivity, or in climates / indoor environments to which they are maladapted.
• Husbandry of exotic species has advanced greatly, but there remains a lack of evidence-based husbandry, and of scientific / natural-history knowledge regarding animals’ needs, even for commonly kept exotic species. Many species are difficult even for experts and zoos to keep.
• The lack of individual owner knowledge about exotic-animal needs – not only specific facts (e.g., the optimal temperature range) about individual species, but often basic understanding of biology, ethology and practical husbandry.
• Equipment, e.g., UV lighting for reptiles, has improved, but large deficiencies remain.
• The difficulty of assessing the welfare of many species.
• Veterinary care of exotic species has advanced greatly, but still lags far behind that for dogs and cats, and only a small proportion of veterinarians have the interest, knowledge and skills to treat many exotic species well.
• Human concern and empathy for animals decreases the less the species is like us.
• Societal norms for animal treatment vary with species.