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Photo Credit: ciamabue via Compfight cc
A hotly debated topic in Australia centres on whether or not native animals should be kept as pets. Currently, certain species can be kept under a special licence but a plan by the NSW government aims to remove the licencing requirements for some mammals, reptiles and native birds.
Although the RSPCA does not support people keeping introduced or native animals as pets, they do illustrate that in most states of Australia it is legal to have a licence to keep some species[1].  The main issue being that native animals often require special types of environments and feeding which closely resembles the environment that they are the most used to. Unfortunately most people just aren’t equipped to handle the complex requirements that native Australian fauna require.

One of the predominant challenges that people are faced with when attempting to domesticate native animals is that many are nocturnal and they are also often ill-suited towards domestication. Proponents of keeping native fauna as pets often cite conservation as a reason for doing so. A feasibility study by the Australian Government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation assesses the arguments for and against keeping native animals as pets[2].  

Arguments against keeping native pets

The risk of cruelty through animal mismanagement

Just like other industries, any step of the supply chain poses a threat to animal welfare.  Not having the right housing, food or behavioural stimuli can cause a great deal of stress in pets. Additionally, dumping of animals that are unwanted can leave these animals prone to attacks from cats or dogs.

Veterinary care, diet and husbandry

Animals that haven’t been properly domesticated behave vastly different to those that have been under the care of humans for thousands of years. Certain native mammals would not make good pets because of their normal ecological requirements which may be difficult to procure in captivity.

Stress

Native animals are used to being prone to predation and thus have a strong ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. This can potentially mean that native fauna who are kept as pets could be highly susceptible to stressful situations which can adversely impact their health.

Large home ranges

There is a great deal of concern about how domesticated native fauna would behave when they are allowed to roam on a large piece of land, whether they would go feral or whether they would consistently return to their owners.

Keeping males separated

Some proponents suggest that having the same gender of a species together can cause issues but there is little evidence to support this claim as breeders report that keeping small groups of the same sex has been achieved without the creation of any adverse issues.

Abandonment

With 63,000 dogs and cats being euthanized by the RSPCA each year in New South Wales and hundreds of thousands of pets being abandoned, animal welfare organisations highlight that pet shops and mass-breeding of animals for profit creates a situation where people purchase on impulse and then can suffer from buyer’s remorse and sometimes this can lead to abandonment. There is a concern that the commodification of native fauna can create a situation like this or possibly one where they would be let into the wild where the pets would be unable to fend for themselves.

[1] http://kb.rspca.org.au/Is-it-legal-to-keep-wildlife-as-pets_283.html


[2] https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/10-072