Pet trade moves thousands of species around the globe, opening the door to unwanted organisms being released into new environments, with subsequent adverse ecological and economical impacts. Approximately half of all households in Europe own a pet of some kind. The industry supplying these animals and the equipment, feeds and other goods to look after them turns over several billion € annually.
A relatively small number of the thousands of species kept as pets have become invasive in Europe:
- 9% of fish invasions were associated with the introduction of ornamental varieties;
- 15 bird species and 9 amphibians/reptiles listed as pets;
- 10% of mammalian invasions originated from the escape of pets.
However, along with unintentional pathways of alien species introductions such as stowaway in different means of transport or trade of contaminated commodities, pet trade is emerging as another important source for species likely to become invasive, with online commerce in particular being a thriving business. The online trade is poorly regulated and, being accessible to all, has increased considerably in recent years, making the purchase of invasive species just a mouse click away from any home.
Among the EU Member States, even where controls apply to the import, there is no single coherent or consistent approach in regard to the ownership and release to the wild of animals, including pets. In this context, the European Code of Conduct on Pets and Invasive Alien Species aims at establishing a single common standard set of behaviours that will enable the ownership of pets while limiting to a minimum any chances of them becoming invasive and causing either economic or ecological harm.