New restrictions on exotic pet keeping in the Netherlands have seen the Animal Protection Agency (APA) calling for similar measures to be introduced in the United Kingdom.

Meerkats have evolved to live in large social groups and reside in intricate underground burrows – and do not belong in the pet trade, says the APA.

The new Dutch regulation, which came into force on February 1, limits the type of animals that can be kept as pets. Animals not included on the new “positive list” cannot be legally kept or may only be kept with a special permit.

First to be listed are mammals, although reptiles and birds will follow.

The APA, which campaigns against the trade in wild animals as pets, has welcomed this new legislation and wants the UK to adopt this “proven, practical and pragmatic approach”.

The scientific method used to build the positive list, in which animal behavioural needs are a key feature, was developed at the University of Wageningen. The positive list favours domesticated species such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, brown rats, house mice, horses, donkeys, pigs, cattle and sheep.

The UK pet trade currently offers a diverse range of exotic mammals – including meerkats, sugar gliders, sloths, skunks, kinkajous, fennec foxes and several primate species – which can be purchased without the need for a licence. However, animal welfare scientists claim exotic species are essentially wild animals that do not adapt to captivity and are therefore not suitable pets.

APA director Elaine Toland said: “One only has to compare the natural life of a meerkat, which has evolved to live in large social groups, hunt for a variety of foods and reside in intricate underground burrows to see that these mammals, and many other exotic species, do not belong in the pet trade.”

She added: “The Dutch positive list shines more light at the end of the tunnel for anyone dealing with the fallout of the exotic pet trade, which has long been out of control.”

  • The Dutch positive list permits owners of prohibited species to keep their animals until they die but trading or breeding from their animals is not allowed.
  • Anyone who acquires a prohibited species risks prosecution and having their animal confiscated.
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