Forgotten Creatures: Changing the Exotic Pet Paradigm

Rob Laidlaw
Executive Director, Zoocheck

Millions of small exotic animals are kept as pets in private residences in North America. These animals include an estimated 7 million birds, as well as millions of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. In the past, significant attention was paid to the private keeping of large and dangerous exotic animals, such as big cats, which over time has led to a diversity of exotic animal regulations and prohibitions. Little attention however has been paid to the legions of smaller exotic animals. This session will explore some of the issues surrounding the trade and keeping of small exotics, the challenges they face in captivity, how to recognize welfare concerns, some issues commonly encountered by enforcement agencies and municipal officials, and suggestions as to how we can move toward a more humane relationship with small exotic animals.

Key Learnings:
1. Acquisition of knowledge about the size and diversity of the exotic pet trade and the various issues associated with it.
2. Gaining familiarity with the welfare challenges faced by individual exotic animals when they are kept as pets, ways to identify discomfort, stress and suffering, and recommended practices for keeping.
3. Exploring potential ways that exotic animal issues can best be dealt with at a local and regional level.


Rob Laidlaw is a Chartered Biologist, Executive Director of wildlife protection charity Zoocheck and an award-winning author of 8 books. For more than 35 years, he has conducted or participated in wildlife protection campaigns from Canada’s north to tropical Asia. He is the 2014 recipient of the CFHS Frederic A. McGrand Award.