Exotic Pets and the Law

I really enjoy reading my colleagues blog posts! One particular post about animal imports got me thinking about a biology lesson I taught in school…

Why do we have rules for importing animals?

Many of the restrictions are created to prevent importing invasive species into Canada. Invasive species are plants or animals that originate from another part of the world but are brought into Canada on purpose or by accident. Once they establish in Canada they out compete our local species and devastate the balance of our ecosystems. For example in Ontario invasive zebra mussels set off a chain of events that led to the death of hundreds of waterfowl (Read more here)

Another reason for the restrictions is to stop the spread of disease. For example importing birds from Asia is not allowed because of the potential to spread bird flu. So I think most people would agree it’s good we have rules to protect the environment and stop the spread of disease. Are we doing enough though?

I came across an article published by the Vancouver Humane Society in 2004 titled A Disaster Ignored. The threat to human and animal health from imported exotic wildlife: a review of scientific evidence and opinion.

It was written after the Monkey Pox outbreak in the United States and advocated stricter regulations for the exotic pet industry. In 2003 several people in the US contracted monkey pox from pet prairie dogs. It was discovered that the disease originated in Gambian Pocket Rats from Africa that had been in contact with prairie dogs in the same pet store. This led Canada and the US to ban imports of African rodents.

The article criticized Canada for being reactive and not proactive and asked why African rodents were not banned earlier. Although there have been changes to some of the legislation discussed in the article, many of the concerns raised are still relevant.

You can learn more about Federal exotic pet import rules here

There are also provincial regulations that list some species as “controlled” and therefore under strict rules. The list is available here

Municipal governments may also pass bylaws regulating exotic pets. To read more about these laws, visit your municipal government’s webpage


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