Serval Xirus was used as a pet
and did not receive proper care.

Exotic pets in the EU

A monkey as a pet? Or some other exotic animal? You may think that’s something from the past, but it is still very common. Like chimpanzee Marria who lived with a family for years, with appalling consequences. Or serval Xirus who has deformities because he did not receive proper care.

In fact, in most EU countries it is perfectly legal to bring all kinds of exotic animal species into your home. The European Union is one of the largest markets in the world for exotic pets. This creates several problems.

Animal welfare

It is estimated that tens of millions of exotic animals live in European households, while they are not at all suitable for that purpose. In practice, this often goes wrong and we also see this in our shelters. The exotic pets we receive at AAP almost always have health or behavioral problems because they did not receive the proper care, nutrition and/or accomodation.

Local ecosystems

The trade in exotic pets is a threat to the conservation of wild species. Animals are regularly taken from the wild (especially from Africa, Asia and South America) and transported to Europe and other parts of the world, where they then end up as pets. This trade reduces the number of animals in the wild and even puts some species at risk of extinction.


It regularly happens that exotic pets escape or are released into the wild. This can displace native species and disrupt local ecosystems, thus damaging European biodiversity. Controlling these so-called invasive exotic species costs the European Union 12 billion euros annually.

Public health and safety

Keeping and trading exotic animals also entails risks to public health. For example, some exotic animals can cause serious injury to human beings or other animals by biting or scratching. Exotic animals also carry a greater risk of (potentially dangerous) zoonoses: infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. At AAP an average of 1 in 7 pet animals are carriers of one or more zoonoses.

The solution

We advocate for a Positive List for pets throughout Europe. This is a list containing the animal species that are considered suitable as pets by independent experts. All animals not on the list are automatically not allowed as pets.

We are pushing for more EU member states to work with this instrument and eventually a Positive List for the entire European Union. We are convinced that the use of such a Positive List is the best way to prevent the suffering of exotic animals in captivity.

Results & impact

Are you curious which EU member states already work with a Positive List? Or which ones are working on it? Hoover over the map to see the current status per country.

The story of serval Xirus
Serval Xirus was a pet, fed with a wrong diet by his previous owner. Due to lack of calcium, several bones had grown in an unnatural shape. In addition, he had a number of old bone fractures.

At AAP, Xirus was able to regain his strength. Several examinations were necessary to monitor the recovery of the serval.


Infected & undetected
Zoonotic threats: Under their skin
Think Positive brochure
The Big Cat in the Room
Exotic Mammal Trade in NL
EfA report on exotic pet legislation