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Pets - What's the Score?

BRIGHTON, England, December 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Science develops new way to gauge suitability or unsuitability

of animals as pets

A vast array of animals are now available to purchase as pets, many of which are mass-marketed as 'easy to keep'. Some animals, typically dogs and cats, can have healthy life-sharing associations with their keepers. However, many animals, especially exotic types, commonly languish in poor conditions and die prematurely. Frequently, all kinds are dumped at rescue centres or released into the environment, potentially resulting in both welfare concerns and causing damage to ecosystems at great financial cost to the public purse. There are also serious and growing concerns about public health and safety risks linked to, notably, exotic pet-keeping, with many animals being described as 'Trojan horses' of infection in the home. Now,

18 scientists, vets and technicians, including leading experts in animal biology, welfare and public health, have developed user-friendly guidance on the suitability or unsuitability of different animals as pets.

The Animal Protection Agency (; is seeking the widespread adoption of a new system to prevent and control the diversity of serious problems associated with especially exotic pet trade and keeping.

The new assessment 'tool', called EMODE, classifies animals as Easy, Moderate, Difficult or Extreme in terms of how challenging they are to keep. EMODE, which has been published in the independent and peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, is a user-friendly tool designed for use both by national and local government personnel and by anyone thinking of acquiring any type of pet.

The team that developed EMODE have emphasised that no animal can be described as undemanding or entirely easy to keep. The article cites the example of outdoor pond fishes, which in some situations may be relatively 'easy' to keep but even these require great care to prevent such problems as freezing in winter and parasite infestations. Indoor exotic animals such as fishes, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as unusual mammals and primates, are categorised from 'Moderate' to 'Extreme' in terms of how challenging they are to keep, based on the biological needs of animals and health and safety issues in the home.

A 'ready-to-use' brochure on EMODE: 'Pets - easy or difficult to keep?' can be found at:

EMODE has been welcomed by European and global organisations, including Eurogroup for Animals, which is the leading voice for animals at EU-level (; International Animal Rescue (; the World Society for the Protection of Animals ( and others. In addition to preventing animal suffering and human health and safety incidents, it is also hoped that EMODE, as a concise and reliable tool, will aid in the formulation of more 'positive lists' by European governments. Positive (or approved) lists work by limiting the trading and keeping of animals to species and types that can be scientifically proven not to suffer stress from sale and keeping; not to cause significant human or agricultural animal diseases; and not to threaten local wildlife if they escape. Belgium already has a positive list for mammals and the Netherlands will implement their positive list for mammals in January 2014. The positive list option is also under discussion in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Norway and Sweden.

EMODE is already gaining important political recognition…

Dan Jørgensen, Danish MEP and President of Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals said:  "I was very happy to learn about the new EMODE system. People without previous expert knowledge about exotic animals will appreciate this easy-to-use tool, and quickly get an idea about the work and responsibility related to keeping a pet - especially exotic animals. I hope EMODE will be used broadly in pet shops and by people thinking about acquiring an exotic pet, and that it might dissuade some people from acquiring pets needing difficult care. In the end, this will hopefully lead to better animal welfare and less exotic pets suffering".

Catherine Bearder, British MEP and well-known advocate of conservation, animal and human welfare said:  "The sheer amount of legal imports of wild pets into the European Union each year is staggering and reflects an increasing demand from the public. I have seen just how difficult it is to care for these unfamiliar, unpredictable and dangerous animals. Aside from the risk to European citizens, there is also the impact to consider on the sustainability of these animal populations in their natural habitats. The new EMODE system is a great step in giving the public a simple tool to make informed choices about the pets they buy. I look forward to seeing the system introduced in pet shops across Europe."

EMODE's key authors emphasise…

Director of the Animal Protection Agency and co-author, Elaine Toland FRSPH said:  "If someone finds it easy keeping an exotic pet, then they are probably doing something wrong! The complexity of these animals is often underestimated, as was evidenced in a recent published scientific article concluding that at least 75% of reptiles die within their first year in the home. EMODE aids both legislators and individuals on informed decision-making to avoid later catastrophes."

Lead author, Clifford Warwick PGDipMedSci CBiol CSci EurProBiol FOCAE FSB, said:

"International, national and local government organisations now recognise that serious efforts must be made to control the diverse and frequently major problems associated with pet trading and keeping - in particular, exotic animals. There has never been a more appropriate time to introduce EMODE to help prevent animal suffering, protect human health, avert ecological degradation, and help save potentially billions of Euros and dollars annually."

Co-author, and Veterinary Surgeon, Mike Jessop BVetMed MRCVS, said:  "The exotic pet trade is out of control with too many species of animal available. The knowledge about their ideal captive care is so sparse which is why I believe the EMODE system is so important to help identify their suitability as pets."

  • For further information, please contact Elaine Toland on +44-(0)1273-674253 or out of hours on +44-(0)7986-535024.

Read the full article here:

Warwick, C., Steedman, C., Jessop, M., Toland, E. and Lindley, S. (2013) Assigning Degrees of Ease or Difficulty for Pet Animal Maintenance: The EMODE System Concept, J Agric Environ Ethics, DOI 10.1007/s10806-013-9455-x.

Animal Protection Agency
Brighton Media Centre
15-17 Middle Street
Tel: +44-(0)1273-674253
Fax: +44-(0)1273-674927
Mobile: +44-(0)7986-535024
[email protected]

Emergent Disease Foundation
Riverside House
River Lawn Road
Kent TN9 1EP
UK Tel: +44-(0)7757267369
UK Registered Charity No. 1133422
[email protected]

Ash Vets
Aberdare Road,
Merthyr Tydfil,
Mid Glamorgan,
CF48 1AT
Tel: +44-(0)1685-385117
Fax: +44-(0)1685-377840
[email protected]

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