New Dutch Positive List for pets: hopefully worth the wait

It’s finally here. Five years after the previous Dutch Positive List was declared invalid, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality today presented a new Positive List for pets. For years, AAP has insisted on the swift introduction of this list, which excludes many unsuitable mammal species as pets. With 50 years of experience in rescuing exotic mammals from private ownership, entertainment or illegal trade, AAP considers the Positive List as the best instrument to stop the increasing flow of animals that get hurt – or cause problems – being kept as pets.

AAP director David van Gennep is hopeful: “For 30 years, we have been working hard to get a Positive List in place. It was already decided in 1992 that a list should be established to only allow suitable pets to be kept by private owners. A crystal clear instrument that replaces various prohibition lists that were always lagging behind reality. Previous attempts failed because the Positive List was challenged by an association for owners of exotic pets. Supported by a huge industry of course; a lot of money is involved in the exotic pet trade. We sincerely hope that the ministry has learned lessons from the past and that the new Positive List will hold up. For countless animals, but also for all rescue centers that struggle to make space to take in all those former pets, this is a make or break moment.”

In the Netherlands, over 300 different mammal species are currently kept as pets. Think dogs, cats and guinea pigs, but also impalas, kinkajous, degus, meerkats, sugar gliders, small-clawed otters, sloths, genets, sable antelopes, desert foxes, lowland tapirs, servals, giant kangaroos and even a brown bear is kept privately in the Netherlands. Without a Positive List, this is completely legal – with all the associated risks for animal welfare, public health and safety. Partly due to the influence of social media, the popularity of exotic species regularly skyrockets. While rescue centers are inundated with requests to take over the ‘pets’ as they turn out not to be nice, tame or safe. The animals involved are always the victims of these trends. In recent years for instance, we witnessed a significant increase in the number of rescue requests for servals and other felines.

The serval: popular but unsuitable as a pet

New methodology
The previous Positive List came into effect in 2015 and was supposed to be supplemented in 2017, but that fell through because the list was challenged in court by the exotic pet hobbyists. The Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal ruled that the list had not been drawn up with sufficient care: a huge disappointment for anyone who hoped that the problem could finally be solved. For the new Positive List, the ministry had scientific experts develop a completely new methodology. An independent advisory committee subsequently assessed all kept mammal species for suitability.

The EU
A well-established Positive List tackles all risks of exotic pet ownership in an effective, efficient, transparent and economically feasible way. AAP will now thoroughly study the new list and the accompanying documents. Van Gennep concludes: “I know one thing: at AAP we will continue to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the welfare of exotic animals in Europe. The Netherlands will hopefully soon be the sixth EU member state with a Positive List in effect. We will continue our work until the entire EU protects the welfare of these animals with this instrument.”

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