The Regina Humane Society (RHS) opposes the breeding and keeping of exotic or wild animals, including their hybrids, as companion animals, and to the importation and commercial trade in exotic or wild animals destined for the pet market.
The Regina Humane Society opposes the capture, transport, ownership, or breeding of wild/exotic animals except where these practices are conducted by authorized and licensed parties for the well-being of these animals or species; for example for the re-population of the species, or re-introduction of the species into its natural habitat.
There is no doubt that many exotic pet owners truly care for their animals. However, they often find themselves unable to provide their pets with an appropriate living environment that ensures both the health and well-being of the animal and the safety of the community.
The Regina Humane Society is prepared to assist individuals in possession of wild or exotic animals in identifying the most appropriate sanctuary or rescue organization to provide future care for these animals.
The RHS maintains that wild/exotic animals are inappropriate companion animals for a variety of reasons.
Animal welfare risks:
- Wild/Exotics are often acquired as “status” pets, without due consideration being given to their specialized needs.
- Wild/Exotics have food/housing/maintenance needs that cannot be provided by most. Few exotic pet owners recognize the specialized needs of exotics or can provide the full Five Freedoms for their exotic pets.
- Many new wild/exotic “fad” pets are introduced into the pet trade each year that are not domesticated animals but wild caught or captive bred. Many of these animals suffer from confinement or improper care.
- Few veterinarians possess the training/experience to deal with the veterinary needs of wild/exotics.
- Wild/Exotic pet owners often attempt to change the nature of their companion animal by surgically removing teeth/claws, leaving the animals potentially stressed and defenseless.
- Wild/Exotics have specialized behaviours, some of which their new owners try to forcibly alter, with devastating effects on the animals’ well being. Many nocturnal wild/exotics, for example, are forced to adapt to the diurnal lives of their human keepers.
- Many wild/exotics become unwanted after the novelty of the pet wears off. Few resources exist to take in these unwanted pets as most zoos, animal shelters and wildlife sanctuaries do not have the capacity to take in unwanted wild/exotic pets. The result is poor animal welfare, a high rate of euthanasia and widespread abandonment of these animals. A large percentage of wild/exotic pets die within the first two years of captivity.
- Many wild/exotics are wild-caught, with high rates of stress, injury, disease and death during the capture/transport process. For example, the World Wildlife Fund estimated in 2003 that up to 80 percent of wild-caught birds die in the capture/transport process.
Public safety risks:
- Because they can carry exotic pathogens (such as readily transmittable and potentially fatal herpes B virus, hantavirus and salmonella), wild/exotic animals present special risks to humans and other animals.
- Wild/Exotics still retain their natural predatory and defensive instincts, making them dangerous or unsuitable to living in an environment with other animals and humans. Even in play, many wild/exotics can harm another animal or human.
- Escaped or released wild/exotics may breed with local species, diluting the gene pool and introducing exotic diseases. For example, in 2003, a shipment of Gambian rats from Africa escaped and introduced the potentially fatal disease monkey pox into North America. Escaped or released exotics can disturb natural indigenous ecologies. The devastating effects of releasing wild/exotic catfish, toads, red-eared slider turtles, bullfrogs, and other species into local environments, for example, are well documented.
- Many wild-caught wild/exotics are captured through partial or whole destruction of their environment. The northern coast of Borneo, for example, has been significantly damaged by collectors bleaching reefs in order to fulfill the demands of the exotic pet fish trade.
In Saskatchewan, people who obtain wildlife should be aware of The Saskatchewan Captive Wildlife Regulations that make it illegal for anyone other than a licensed rehabilitation organization to hold wildlife species in captivity.
Regina’s Wascana Centre includes this in its bylaws:
Except as may be authorized by the authority or the director, either in writing or by an erected sign, no persons shall, save within a building: within the centre injure, move, disturb or destroy any nesting bird, bird’s nest or eggs or set any trap or snare or injure, kill, or attempt to kill or have possession of any wild animal or bird. Any individual in possession of wildlife within our city must also abide by any City of Regina animal bylaws.
Injured or orphaned wild animals should be cared for by licensed wildlife rehabilitators whose objective is to return the animals to the wild. Wild animals who become dependent on humans must be provided environments and care appropriate to their needs.