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A Framework for Assessing the Suitability of Different Species as Companion Animals

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Abstract:

Municipal regulations and humane movement policies often restrict or discourage the use of 'exotic' species as companion animals. However, confusion arises because the term 'exotic' is used in various ways, and because classifying species as exotic or non-exotic does not satisfactorily distinguish suitable from unsuitable companion animals. Even among commonly kept species, some appear to be much more suitable than others. Instead, decisions about suitable companion animal species need to be based on a number of relevant issues. As ethical criteria, we considered that keeping a companion animal should not jeopardize – and ideally should enhance – its welfare, as well as that of its owner; and that keeping a companion animal should not incur any appreciable harm or risk of harm to the community or the environment. These criteria then served as the basis for identifying and organizing the various concerns that may arise over keeping a species for companionship. Concerns include how the animals are procured and transported, how well their needs can be met in captivity, whether the animal poses any danger to others, and whether the animal might cause environmental damage. These concerns were organized into a checklist of questions that form a basis for assigning species to five proposed categories reflecting their suitability as companion animals. This assessment framework could be used in creating policy or regulations, and to create educational and decision-making tools for pet retailers, animal adoption workers, and potential owners, to help prevent animals from being placed in unsuitable circumstances.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; COMPANION ANIMALS; ETHICS; EXOTIC ANIMALS; PET ANIMALS; PET OWNERSHIP

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2000

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