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

Exotic pets in the EU

Keeping a monkey or some other exotic animal as a pet? You may think that’s a thing 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 developed deformities as a result of not receiving proper care.

In most EU countries it is unfortunately entirely legal to keep all kinds of exotic species as pets. In fact, the European Union is one of the largest markets in the world for exotic pets. This leads to several significant problems.

Animal suffering

It is estimated that tens of millions of exotic animals live in European households, despite being totally unsuitable for such environments. In practice, things often go wrong, as evidenced by our rescue centres. The exotic pets we rescue at AAP almost always have health or behavioural problems due to inadequate care, nutrition and/or housing.

Pressure on local ecosystems

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

Loss of biodiversity

Exotic pets often escape or are released into nature, displacing native species and disrupting local ecosystems, thus damaging European biodiversity.
The European Union spends 12 billion euros annually to control these so-called invasive exotic species.

Risk to public health and safety

Keeping and trading exotic animals also carries risks to public health. For example, some exotic species can cause serious injuries to humans or other animals through bites or scratches. Also, exotic pets are more likely to carry (potentially dangerous) zoonoses: infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans. On average, 1 in 7 exotic animals with a pet background at AAP carries one or multiple zoonoses.

The solution

At AAP, we advocate for the implementation of a Positive List for pets throughout Europe. Such a list comprises animal species that independent experts deem suitable to be kept as pets. All species that are not on this list are automatically not allowed as pets.

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

Results & impact

Do you wonder which EU member states already have a Positive List in place? Or which ones are working on it? Hover your mouse over the map below to see the current status per EU country.
The story of serval Xirus
Serval Xirus was kept as a pet and provided with improper nutrition by his previous owner. A lack of calcium caused multiple bones in his body to deform. In addition, he had a number of old bone fractures.

At AAP, Xirus received the professional care he needed to regain his strength. Regular medical check-ups were necessary to monitor his recovery. As a result, Xirus is doing much better now.


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