Research shows an EU-wide Positive list is needed to prevent the illegal trade of exotic pets 

A Positive List is expected to be one of the most comprehensive and effective ways to reduce the rise of exotic animal pets in Europe by harmonizing domestic law. 


Many countries already utilize “Negative Lists’, which list species that are not allowed in a country or to be kept as pets. A move towards a ‘Positive List’ is preferable as it allows for a concise, simplified list of what animals are allowed to be kept. These lists are shorter and require less revision over the years due to changing ownership trends, conservation status changes, and threats to human health. 

The introduction of an EU wide positive list will have a significant impact on the trade of wild animals, including big cats, reptiles, and amphibians, into Member States. Currently, individual countries are implementing their own versions of a Positive List. However, not all lists are created equal resulting in a disharmonized network of laws that confuse consumers and may allow gaps in regulation. Such gaps can allow for the import and domestic breeding of wild animals making it incredibly difficult to track how many wild species are being kept as pets within the EU. For example, Malta’s list only regulates pet shops and Italy’s does not include captive bred animals.  

Recent investigations have already highlighted the impact of disharmonized regulations.  

Eurogroup for Animals has just released a commissioned report by Sapience which exposed how easily buyers can purchase illegal wild animals from sellers in other Member States. Sapience through anonymous interviews with online vendors, were able to confirm the ability to purchase and have delivered a wide variety of animals.  

Posing as a Belgian citizen, they were able to contact a Lithuanian vendor who was open to selling (and delivering) a Fennec Fox despite this species not being allowed under the Belgium Positive List.  

An online shop in Germany was willing to ship a Reticulated Python to Italy even though this species is blacklisted as a dangerous animal and cannot be kept by private individuals residing in Italy.  

Moreover, in 2020 Pro Wildlife conducted an assessment into the exotic pet trade in Germany. Through the research they found:  

  • 63% of animals advertised did not specify their origin equally 62,575 individual species
  • 1,600 animals were taken from the wild
  • 36,000 were advertised to come from breeders
  • 49% of animals were not listed under CITES
  • 48% were listed under CITES Appendix II
  • Mammals offered from 2010-2014 represented a market value of over 8 million euros

This year FOUR PAWS will continue advocating for the implementation of an EU-wide Positive List that is comprehensive and harmonizes Member State laws to best protect animals and reduce the trend of keeping wild and exotic animals as companion animals. 

FOUR PAWS along with its partner organisations is calling for:  

  • A feasibility study by European Commission. The EU has a shocking gap in data on exotic pets and wild animals that are both imported into Member States and bred or traded internally. This study would not only provide the necessary data to showcase the true scope of the problem, but it would also explore the legal basis for which a Positive List is needed. This includes Article 114 of the TFEU which regulates internal market distortion, a problem that is already being presented as Member States implement national positive lists that vary widely in scope.
  • Have the provision for an EU positive list under the proposed Kept Animals Regulation as part of the Animal Welfare Revision. This could potentially extend the scope of the section pertaining to cats and dogs, to include all companion animals.
Aubrey C

Aubrey Collins

Wild Animal Policy Coordinator

Avenue de la Renaissance 19/11
1000 Brussels

FOUR PAWS - European Policy Office

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