Exotic pets can make fabulous pets but there are some important considerations to mull over before you bring one into your home. Before you choose between a stick insects, African land snail, snake or bearded dragon (to name but a few!) please read our advice to make sure you’re fully prepared.
The Animal Welfare Act & being prepared:
The Animal Welfare Act was passed in 2007. This has brought about significant changes to animal welfare law and responsible pet ownership. The Act covers the requirements of pet owners to ensure they care for their pet properly by providing the five basic needs, which are often called the five animal freedoms. Some exotic animals are relatively easy to care for such as stick insects whereas others need quite a lot of care and time to ensure their health and wellbeing. Find out prior to acquiring the new pet their average lifespan, adult size and ensure you are prepared to commit to looking after it. It’s best to purchase your pet from a specialist exotic pet shop where the staff will be able to ensure you can provide your pet with the below:
- Freedom from discomfort – a suitable environment, correct sized housing/ shelter, temperature, and somewhere in accordance with the species and its needs
- Freedom from hunger and thirst – a proper and balanced diet that meets the needs of the species- this also includes providing fresh water
- Freedom to express its normal behaviour – making sure the animal has enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind if deemed normal for the species
- Freedom from fear and distress – ensuring it feels safe and care with treatment avoids mental suffering or stress
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by providing the proper care and preventing them from getting ill or injured by making sure that they are taken to the vets if sick or injure.
- Equipment: Ensure you purchase all equipment required prior to buying or acquiring the animal.
- Feeding: Ensure that your exotic pet receives a balanced diet which provides all the nutrition it needs is vital. Invertebrates such as stick insects and snails require a balanced diet just like snakes and bearded dragons etc. As most species are not native to UK, supplements may often be neccessary to provide a balanced diet.
- Environment: It is essential that through research you understand how to set up a suitable environment for our pet. Snakes for instance are ectotherms and require additional light and heat sources for maintaining their health and wellbeing. Some animals require very much more effort to house than others – requiring a greater commitment from you.
- Space: Do you have enough available space? Arboreal (tree dwelling) reptiles and amphibians need more vertical space than terrestrial species (once that live predominately on the ground). Vivariums (tanks for snakes, lizards and similar) come in a range of sizes and some have fitted heat light or heat mats. For the health safety and wellbeing of the animal it is essential that flexes and cords and exposed lights are suitably covered to avoid burns or electrocution
- Habitat: For all exotic pets it is necessary to provide environmental enrichment – an area for them to hide away, and an environment that stimulates normal behaviour for example branches, rocks, suitable substrate, shallow bathing area.
- Temperature: You might need to provide a range of temperatures within the environment to allow the animal to control their body temperature by moving from a cold spot to a hot spot. Snakes, lizards and bearded dragons for instance need a place to bask- under a heat lamp as well as an area to hide and to bathe
- Lighting: Your exotic animal may very well require ultraviolet lighting as well as access to unfiltered sunlight.