Capture of Wild Animals for the Pet Trade – Position Statement

November 14, 2012


The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is opposed to the capture of wild animals to be kept or sold as pets. 
1. Exploitation of wildlife is a significant threat to global biodiversity. (1-5)
a. Millions of vertebrate and invertebrate species are captured and traded annually, with the vast majority of this trade being unregulated and illegal. 
b. Capture and removal of these animals for the pet trade often occurs in a void of knowledge with respect to each species’ population sustainability, and few initiatives exist to promote sustainability.
c. Some of these species are considered at risk of becoming endangered or extinct.
2. A large proportion (up to 80%) of wild animals captured for the pet trade are injured or die during capture and transportation. (2-4, 6-8)
a. The handling and transport conditions of captured animals often presents welfare and ethical concerns. 
b. Animals that survive capture and transport are often unable to acclimate to captivity.
c. Wild animals manifest a range of behaviours that assist them to adapt to their natural environment. They are often instinctively afraid of humans and other domestic animals, and will not adapt and become good companion animals. 
d. Information on the optimum care, behavioural needs, social structures, and nutrition of many wild animal species is not readily available. This leads to suboptimal care and premature death in captive settings.
3. Capture may involve extensive habitat destruction and indiscriminate injury or death of many non-target species (e.g., marine tropical fish and corals). (2,9)
a. Cyanide fishing is now recognized as a major factor leading to the destruction of coral reefs.
b. Residual cyanide is believed to contribute to high delayed mortality of marine fish. 
4. Unregulated global trade in wildlife may contribute to introduction of non-native invasive species and foreign animal diseases, with potentially significant economic and public health impact. (6,10,11) 
a. Little disease surveillance is conducted for legally imported non-agricultural animals. 
b. The process of importation and distribution often involves keeping animals at high density and in unnatural groupings of species, providing opportunities for cross-species transmission and amplification of known and unknown pathogens. 
c. The CVMA supports education of consumers about the negative impacts of exotic animal purchase.
d. The CVMA supports global efforts to combat illegal trade of wildlife through community education and capacity building with local people where these species are harvested, increased local research to better understand the effects of harvest on wild populations, and coordinated international regulations and enforcement.
  1. Herrera M, Hennessey B. Quantifying the illegal parrot trade in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, with emphasis on threatened species. Bird Conservation International. 2007;17: 295-300.
  2. Livengood EJ, Chapman FA. The ornamental fish trade: An introduction with perspectives for responsible aquarium fish ownership. FA124. 2007; Available at: Last accessed April 30, 2013.
  3. Natusch DJ, Lyons JA. Exploited for pets. The harvest and trade of amphibians and reptiles from Indonesian New Guinea. Biodiverity Conservation. 2012;21:2899-2911.
  4. Schlaepfer MA, Hoover G, Dodd CK.  Challenges in evaluating the impact of trade in amphibians and reptiles on wild populations. BioScience. 2005;55:256-264.
  5. Tlusty MF, Rhyne AL, Kaufman L, et al. Opportunities for public aquariums to increase the sustainability of the aquatic animal trade. Zoo Biology. 2012;00:1-19.
  6. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Keeping of Native or Exotic Wild Animals as Pets. 2011. Available at:
  7. Engebretson M. The welfare and suitability of parrots as companion animals: A review. Animal Welfare. 2006;15:263-276.
  8. Rosen GE, Smith KF. Summarizing the evidence on the international trade in illegal wildlife. Ecohealth. 2010;7:24-32.
  9. Rubec PJ, Cruz F, Pratt V, Oellers R, McCullough B, Lallo F. Cyanide-free net-caught fish for the marine aquarium trade. Aquarium Sciences and Conservation. 2001;3:37-51.
  10. Pavlin BI, Schloegel LM, Daszak P. Risk of importing zoonotic diseases through wildlife trade, United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2009;15:1721-1726.
  11. Pearl MC. Wildlife trade: Threat to global health. Ecohealth. 2004;1:111-112.
(Revised November 2012)