19 February 2014

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) and the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association (REPTA) have joined forces to launch a new Code of Practice for traders and pet owners to help encourage responsible ownership.

The vast majority of non-native pets in the UK are ornamental fish and reptiles so the code outlines people’s responsibilities when they keep animals that are foreign to the UK, in particular the importance of making sure they do not escape into the wild and cause a problem to native wildlife.

The code covers three main issues for pet owners when it comes to buying and keeping a non-native pet:

  • The importance of not releasing the pet into the wild or allowing it to escape
  • The need to properly dispose of old bedding and pet litter so that eggs and pests can’t get into the wild
  • The importance for owners of researching and preparing themselves for all that’s involved in keeping their chosen pet for the whole of its life.

It also urges traders involved in selling pets to:

  • Make sure customers know and understand all the commitments involved for the pet they want to buy
  • Make sure pets are free of pests and parasites as far as possible when they’re sold.

“We want this code to be simple and understandable for owners so that they understand the responsibilities they have when they take on a pet,” explained OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“The message is simple – we want people to understand how important it is not to release or allow their pet to escape into the British countryside because it’s cruel and can damage our native wildlife. And we need retailers to play their part in making sure owners understand this message by helping them to be prepared for what’s involved in caring for their new pet.

“The issue of non-native animals and plants escaping into the British countryside is coming under growing political scrutiny with the forthcoming European Alien Invasives Regulation and the parliamentary enquiry currently being done by the Environmental Audit Committee. As the ornamental fish and reptile industries import more non-native species than any other trade it’s vital we play our part in ensuring that what we bring into this country stays safely in the aquarium, tank or vivarium.”

Chris Newman of the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association said: “The code really just reinforces the common sense idea that nothing associated with reptile keeping should be released deliberately or inadvertently into the wild. Keepers should take great care to avoid either the animals they keep or food items leaving captivity. This protects the reptiles we care for and the environment we all enjoy in this country.”

The Code of Practice can be found on our website here. This Code is based on a Council of Europe document which has more detailed advice on keeping pets which can be downloaded here.