The BSAVA prefer the term “non-traditional companion animal” over the term “exotic pet” as it considers that this better describes both the species and relationships involved. The BSAVA do not support the keeping of wild caught animals of any species as companion animals, however it acknowledges that there may be occasions when it is defensible to keep wild caught animals for conservation reasons.

The BSAVA strongly supports the concept of the 5 welfare needs as an appropriate way of assessing the welfare of all species kept as companion animals.

The BSAVA acknowledge that it is often more difficult to meet the welfare needs of non-traditional companion animals both because it may be less easy to access the resources required and because, for some species, we do not fully understand how to meet their welfare needs.

The BSAVA strongly recommend that any person considering taking on a non-traditional companion animal should establish how they will meet the welfare needs of the animal before they purchase or take responsibility for the animal.

The BSAVA acknowledge that there is little evidence regarding the numbers or problems associated with keeping non-traditional companion animals and support any initiative which enables the health and welfare of these animals to be improved. However, veterinary surgeons that regularly treat non-traditional species acknowledge that there is a problem that needs addressing.

The BSAVA acknowledge that there are some species which it is not appropriate to keep as companion animals, this would include but is not limited to, those listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

The BSAVA accepts that positive lists of companion animal species are easier to enforce than negative lists but if a positive list is introduced it will be necessary to make provision to protect the welfare of any animals not on the list currently kept as companion animals to prevent abandonment or destruction. If a positive list is introduced it should also be possible for people who wished to keep species not on the list to apply for a license to keep them based on their ability to demonstrate how they would provide for the animals’ welfare needs.


Background information


The BSAVA agrees with the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) that the term “companion animal” is preferable to the term “pet” as the later fails to provide an adequate description of the range of relationships that may exist between humans and the animals which are kept.

The BSAVA accepts most of the Callisto definition that of companion animals and agree that a companion animal is any domestic-bred or wild-caught animals, permanently living in a community and kept by people for company, enjoyment, work (e.g. support for blind or deaf people, police or military dogs) or psychological support – including, but not limited to dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds and ornamental fish

For the purposes of this statement fish and invertebrates have been excluded.

The definition of “exotic “animal is problematic as it implies that an animal is not native to an area. This can cause problems both with the animals that are already commonly kept as companion animals and would lead to problems with free movement within the EU. Therefore we consider it more appropriate to refer to non-traditional companion animals.

Legislation relating to non-traditional companion animals:

Animal Welfare Act       
Dangerous Wild Animals Act

Other statements

Non-traditional companion animal policy statement


Scientific Committee 2014 - ratified BSAVA Council November 2014

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