Framework to determine a positive list for mammals

P. Koene, A.H. Ipema, R.M. de Mol, H. Hopster

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


Many exotic species are kept as pets. But this may probably change with the introduction of the new Dutch Health and Welfare Act for Animals. Based on the principle of “no, unless”, animal species may not be allowed as pets unless specific criteria are met. It will only be possible to keep the pet species that are suitable to be kept and are listed on a so-called positive list. But which animals can be kept as pets? Ten years ago a framework for assessing the suitability of animals to be kept as pets was published by Schuppli and Fraser (2000). The framework had not much impact and was only applied to parrots and monkeys. And despite severe animal welfare risks, many people continue to keep wild and exotic species. In order to estimate the suitability of animal species as companion animals, information on natural and captive behaviour, adaptation and animal welfare is essential. However, often such data are limited, not known or not formally published. In such cases, a method of predicting the welfare risks of exotic animals as potential companion animals is needed. A new framework is designed to enhance the transparency and objectivity of detecting the suitability of animal species as pet animals in an early stage. The basic criterion of the positive list was the natural behaviour of the animal species. The behaviour of an animal is based on its ability to react adequately to changes in its environment. Can the animal easily adapt to the captive environment and changes in its surroundings? If an animal species finds it difficult to adapt because of its behavioural needs, this may lead to behavioural and welfare problems. Examples of strong behavioural needs are species with specific food requirements of specific social needs. A start is made to determine a positive list for mammals. Data on the behaviour of mammal species were collected from literature and entered in a database, to assess the species behavioural needs from their natural behaviour. The possible behaviours were divided into eight functional behavioural criteria based on the functional approach of Tembrock (1980), including space (e.g. walking around), time (e.g. sleeping), food (e.g. eating), safety (e.g. sheltering), maintenance of integument (e.g. dust-bathing), reproduction (e.g. courtship), other animals of the same species (e.g. grooming each other) and information (e.g. exploring). The next step in the method is the assessment of the welfare risks of keeping the species in a human environment as companion animal. In the last stage, this information is combined with legal and risk factors – e.g. related to disease and danger - to provide the final assessment of the suitability or potential of an animal species as a companion animal. The theory and practice of determining the suitability of mammals as companion animals will be demonstrated with some striking examples.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventMinding Animals 2012 -
Duration: 3 Jul 20126 Jul 2012


ConferenceMinding Animals 2012

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