vhs asks Pet Expo to drop exotics

Vancouver’s Pet Expo to include reptiles and petting zoo

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has asked Canwest Productions to reconsider its use of exotic animals in its Pet Expo this coming weekend.

“Keeping reptiles, even small ones, as pets creates an animal welfare problem,” says VHS Communications Director Peter Fricker.  “These animals have evolved to thrive in a very complex environment, which cannot be replicated in captivity. By including the Cinemazoo petting zoo and a reptile display, the Pet Expo is encouraging the public to keep them, as well as permitting these animals to be exposed to a significant level of stress. This is irresponsible and totally unacceptable.”

Marketed as low-maintenance pets, reptiles are often taken home by families that soon become overwhelmed by the level of care required. Thousands of reptiles die in their small aquariums in living rooms and basements, suffering from malnutrition and disease. Many are abandoned in the wild where they can suffer from predation, starvation or exposure.  They can also create problems for indigenous species by taking over food sources and habitat.

While a portion of reptiles are captive-bred, many are still taken from the wild, creating increased stress on already threatened wild populations.  Collection for the pet trade is considered a major threat to wildlife populations in many countries. In Canada, 62 per cent of reptile populations are considered at risk.

Fricker also cites the risk to human health that reptiles pose. Almost all reptiles carry salmonella, which can be dangerous to humans, especially children. In a 2006 report, the Centre for Food Security and Public Health stated that Salmonellosis acquired from reptiles is often severe and can be fatal, and most cases are seen in children under ten. Infants are particularly at risk.

VHS is encouraging the public to boycott this event.