What We Do

Exotics as pets



Exotic animals are not suitable as companion pets.


Because, once in a captive environment, it’s very difficult to provide for the physical, psychological and behavioural requirements of these unique animals.

Domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, etc., are bred by humans over thousands of generations. These animals are dependant, predictable and controllable. However, despite several generations of captive breeding, wild, exotic animals continue to retain their natural predatory and defensive instincts. Prey species become anxious during captivity, making them dangerous and unsuitable to living in an environment with other animals and humans.

Sometimes, exotics are sold as ‘starter pets,’ and billed as being ‘low maintenance.’ These animals often have rigid and environmental dietary needs that cannot be met by the average owner.

If you do own an exotic animal, please refer to our *Five Freedoms for Animals below. You must ensure its well-being by respecting its Five Freedoms for the entire life cycle of that animal.

What is an exotic animal and how is it different from keeping a companion animal?

An exotic animal is a wild animal taken out of its natural habitat and bred in captivity. It may be sold as a companion animal but it can never truly be a companion to a human being.

The DSPCA understands the needs of companion animals. We understand their veterinary cares and specific requirements important to their wellbeing. Exotic animals often suffer immensely because most people don’t have the resources or knowledge to properly meet their requirements.

The exotic pet trade, inhumane as it is, is big business and many people buy them as so called status symbol pets or as novelties. You must remember though that exotic animals cannot perform tricks, they ignore their owners and are difficult to care for. When selecting an exotic, people don’t consider how large they will grow and how long they will live. Some, such as macaws and box turtles can even outlive their human owners.

Also, when the novelty of owning an exotic diminishes, the reality of the high care cost, lack of interaction, increase in responsibility, not to mention size, soon sets in. This leads to the animals being abandoned or surrendered to an animal welfare shelter such as the DSPCA.

The DSPCA – Our Animal Welfare Concerns

It’s no secret that the exploitation of exotic animals results in many of them suffering and dying during their capture and export. Further suffering can occur when they are taken from the wild prior to arriving at pet stores. More than half of all captured animals die before becoming pets. Their deaths involve enormous suffering from starvation, dehydration, hyperthermia, stress, overcrowding, injury and attacks by other captive animals kept in severely confined spaces.

Most owners of exotics are likely to be ignorant of their needs, so, whether bred in captivity or abducted from the wild, surviving pets can often face cruel treatment, unsuitable living conditions and improper diets. Further suffering is incurred when they lose their novelty value and are released into the environment. They can either die due to lack of physical attributes necessary for survival or may thrive and wreak havoc for other native wildlife.

It’s unjustifiable to keep an exotic as a pet; mortality rates are high for a number of reasons. Often by the time the owner realises their pet is ill it’s too late, they’ve already gone through months of suffering before dying or requiring euthanasia. Sometimes these beautiful creatures self mutilate or become depressed.

The DSPCA urges responsible pet ownership. Please give a loving home to a domestic, companion animal such as a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, etc.,

And Another Thing…

Listen up, this is the science bit. You can get such diseases as salmonella, herpes B, Chlamydia, giardia, hepatitas A, rabies, ringworm, tuberculosis and scabies. Not very sociable or cool diseases are they?

But wait, there’s more…how about measles, monkey pox, (it’s a bit like small pox), marbug virus, mollosccum contagiosum, dermatophytosis, candidiasis, streptothricosis, yaba virus, campylobacteriosis, klebsiella, amebiasis and other infections from various nematodes, cestodes and arthropods such as lice, mites and fleas. And no, we didn’t swallow a dictionary, nor are we auditioning for Mastermind, we’re just trying to inform all you wannabe exotic pet owners that keeping an exotic is bad for your health, not to mention your social life.

Some of the above are not life threatening and some are very serious and can be fatal. One thing’s for sure; they’re all bound to diminish your list of Facebook friends.


1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition –all animals should have ready access to fresh water and a suitable diet to maintain full health and vigour. If in doubt, ask your vet to provide advice.

2. Freedom from discomfort – by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. Animals should be closely observed and regularly inspected. It’s important to provide prompt and reliable medical treatment in the case of sickness or injury in order to prevent suffering.

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind. Each animal displays normal behaviour which he should be free to express. For example, hens need a nest to lay eggs and dust in which to ‘bathe.’ The expression of natural behaviour can be encouraged by providing such basic sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring suitable conditions that avoid any mental or physical suffering.

(c) Miriam Kerins, Education Officer. DSPCA. Email: Miriam.kerins@dspca.ie

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