One Click Away: An investigation into the online sale of exotic animals as pets

Iguana's eye moving

As a worrying new report reveals the huge scale of unsuitable and potentially dangerous animals widely available to buy online, we’re calling for a government review of the exotic pet trade.

Our One Click Away report, produced by Blue Cross and the Born Free Foundation, aims to improve understanding of the scale, range and availability of exotic animals online and the implications this may have on the welfare of animals that are not domesticated in the way that pets such as dogs and cats are.

Pets in the UK

Estimates for the total number of pets (domesticated or non-domesticated) in the UK vary. 

UK map of animals kept as pets
  • 65 million animals are kept as pets in the UK
  • Estimates suggest between 1.3 and 7 million reptiles and amphibians are kept as pets
  • 57 per cent of licensed high street pet shops in Britain sell one or more exotic species
  • Exotic species such as primates, meerkats, venomous, snakes and birds of prey are available to buy in high street pet shops
  • Privately owned exotic species (licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act) include snow leopards, tigers, puma, cheetah and tapirs

Recommendations from the report

Blue Cross and The Born Free Foundation make the following recommendations:

Iguana on branch

Review of the exotic pet trade
Westminster and devolved administrations undertake a full review of the exotic pet trade. This should cover all aspects of ownership, including the breeding, trade and keeping of exotic animals across the UK.

Review the Pet Animals Act 1951
There is an urgent need for the government to review and update the Pet Animals Act 1951 to reflect the large-scale and increasing sale of animals over the internet. There needs to be greater clarity as to the criteria that must be met in order for premises to be licensed under the Pet Animals Act.

Improve enforcement of legislation
Improved enforcement of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and EU Wildlife Trade Regulations (ECc) 338/97. Sellers should be required to state if any species they are advertising require a dangerous wild animals licence or an endangered species certification.

Ensure stricter criteria for sellers
Websites should ensure that listed adverts contain specific information. This should include greater details about the animal for sale. Sellers should not be able to sell ‘various birds’, for example. Exotic pets advertised online should, at the very least, be listed by their correct species, and sellers should state how many animals they are advertising for sale, their sex and their age. Sites offering animals for sale should list basic welfare requirements that must be met by buyers and sellers. Online sellers with a pet shop licence should be made to state this on their adverts.

View the full report

— Page last updated 17/05/2022