Exotic Pets

MORI has recently conducted a survey for the RSPCA about exotic pets, to find out whether prospective buyers are given the right advice when considering the purchase of animals such as exotic birds, reptiles, crocodiles, terrapins, chipmunks, snakes, geckos, caimans, sugar gilders and parrots.

MORI has recently conducted a survey for the RSPCA about exotic pets, to find out whether prospective buyers are given the right advice when considering the purchase of animals such as exotic birds, reptiles, crocodiles, terrapins, chipmunks, snakes, geckos, caimans, sugar gilders and parrots. Overall, the survey suggested that although basic information is given about healthcare, habitat and diet, buyers are often not sufficiently quizzed as to their own expertise or family circumstances.

The survey formed the basis of the RSPCA's report Handle with Care: A Look at the Exotic Animal Pet Trade. The study comprised 300 mystery shopping interviews with pet shops.

Topline Results

  • Results are based on 300 telephone interviews with Pet Shops
  • Fieldwork dates 29 September — 13 October 2003
  • Data are unweighted

Q1 I'm calling on behalf of my son / partner who is interested in buying an unusual pet. Something like a… Do you sell these…?

  Yes No
  % %
Snake 100 -
Lizard 73 27
Tortoise / Terrapin / Turtle 97 3
Bird 100 -
Unusual Mammal 100 -
NB in some cases alternative species were read out if 'no' to the first

Q2 Do you know where I could get something like that from please? Base: All who said 'No' to any species asked at Q1 (23)

  %
This shop — to order 100
Other pet shop -
Local breeder -
National breeder -
International breeder -
Off the internet / web sites -
 
No — Don't know -

Q3 What exactly have you got…? I've got a list / an idea of the kind of things that they might be interested in…

REPTILES — SNAKES Base: All asked about snakes (73)

  %
CONSTRICTOR SNAKES
Reticulated python 1
Boa constrictor 30
Burmese python 1
Emerald tree boa 3
Royal python 12
SMALL SNAKES
Common milksnake 3
Kingsnakes 10
Rat snakes 3
Corn snakes 34
Common garter snake 1
Other 1

REPTILES — LIZARDS / CROCS Base: All asked about lizards (77)

  %
SMALL CROCODILIANS
Caimans(spectacled) 26
LARGE-MEDIUM LIZARDS
Bosc monitor 3
Nile monitor 1
Chameleon species 6
Spiny- tailed lizards (Uromastyx) 1
Green iguana 1
Chinese water dragon 5
Bearded dragon 12
SMALL LIZARDS
Leopard gecko 35
Tokay gecko 3
Blue-tongued skink 5
Other 1

REPTILES — CHELONIANS Base: All asked about tortoises/terrapins/turtles (61)

  %
LARGE CHELONIANS
Snapping turtle 2
African spurred tortoise 26
MEDIUM CHELONIANS
American box turtle -
Hinge-back tortoises -
African pancake tortoise -
Red eared terrapin 5
Mediterranean tortoises (such as: spur-thighed tortoise, Hermann's, Horsfield's or marginated tortoises) 51
Leopard tortoise 3
Other 13

BIRDS Base: All asked about birds (54)

  %
PARROTS
Grey-headed lovebird 2
Conures (Nanday) 6
Macaws (blue & gold, green winged) 6
Lorys (black-capped) 2
Ring-necked parakeet 7
Peach-faced lovebird 6
Aston/African grey parrot 11
Maroon/red bellied conures 4
NON-PARROTS
Touraco (Hartlaubs) -
Hummingbirds -
Toucan (red billed) -
Kookaburra -
Finches (green singing, zebra) 20
Cockatiel 11
Budgie 7
Canaries 4
Other 15

MAMMALS Base: All asked about mammals (35)

  %
PRIMATES
Common marmoset -
MARSUPIALS
Sugar glider 17
Possums 3
CARNIVORES
Meerkat -
Fennec fox -
Coati mundi -
Racoon 3
RODENTS
Prairie dog 3
Multimammate rats/ mice / 'Marmite mice' -
Chipmunk 23
Degu 46
Jird 6

Q4 What do I need to know…? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  First Mention Total Mentions
  (300) (300)
  % %
Type of diet 14 51
Equipment required — cage / tank size 16 51
Equipment required — heating / environment 8 42
Equipment required — other (specify) - 3
Conditions required — lighting * 18
Conditions required — temperature 1 25
Conditions required — humidity 1 4
Size of cage / habitat 5 23
Animal size — on purchase 7 23
Animal size — growth potential 9 40
Life expectancy — average / potential * 21
Life expectancy — how to maximise 1 5
Costs — purchase 8 38
Costs — maintenance - 5
Care needed — personal attention / fuss 3 19
Care needed — vets - 13
Pet insurance - *
Does it like company, or prefers being solitary 1 8
Ease of keeping 7 22
Ease of breeding - 3
Typical illnesses - 11
Potential danger to others — animals - *
Potential danger to others — humans * 7
Potential danger to others — children - 3
License / "paperwork" 7 11
"Good pet" 2 12
Other 1 3
Don't know * -

Q5 And what about… What exactly do I need to know about it? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

Top 5 Answers %
Tank/vivarium is required/size appropriate 24
Feeding recommendations 24
Heating/humidity requirements 20
Prices/packages/starter kits available 19
Animal size — growth potential 11

Q6 Are they easy to keep? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Yes — unqualified 31
Yes — qualified 53
No -qualified 8
No — unqualified 5
Don't know 3

Q7 How old are the ones you have in…? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Babies/hatchlings 15
Up to 2 months 13
Up to 3 months 20
4-6 months 11
7-12 months 7
Adults 12
Various 3
Born this year 6
None at present in stock 14
Not mentioned 3
Other 1
Don't know 6

Q8 Do you know where I can get… Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  Yes — shop sells Yes — recommend elsewhere Neither Don't know
  % % % %
tank/cage 94 2 3 1
habitat equipment (e.g. nestbox / hide, bedding material) 95 - 4 2
heating and lighting equipment 87 * 10 3
water bottles/feeding dishes 96 - 2 1
toys 59 - 38 2
food 86 9 4 2

Q9 Is there anything else I should know about keeping it. What illnesses might it get? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

Top 5 Mentions %
Don't get many illnesses 32
Fine — if well taken care of/easy to look after 25
Like good diet / vegetarians / fruit 22
Can get colds / if conditions not correct 21
Look and read books/leaflets/internet 9
None 18
Don't know 2

10a How would I be able to tell if it is ill? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

Top 5 Mentions %
Stop Eating/Change of eating habits 41
Listless/Lethargic/Depressed 17
Don't get ill 16
Behaviour change 12
You would know straight away 10
Don't know 3

10b Can these be passed to other animals or humans? Base: All mentioning illness at Q10a (241)

  %
Yes — other animals 2
Yes — humans 5
No — if take precautions (e.g. washing hands after handling) 48
No — not at all 36
Don't know 11

11 There is a baby in the house. Is there anything we should be careful about…? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

Top 5 Mentions %
No problems 30
Keep clean / Wash hands after handling 19
Do not recommend baby touching / holding left alone with animal 14
Don't put fingers on cage 8
Just common sense / Be sensible 8
Don't know 1

Q12 What would happen if it gets too big, we don't like it, or it doesn't settle in? Q13 And what if it becomes ill?

  Q12 Too big / Don't like it Q13 Becomes ill
  % %
Shop offers to take it back 33 2
Shop will help with re-homing 18 -
Local vet recommended * 24
Support group recommended - -
RSPCA is recommended 3 *
Animal home or other charity is recommended 3 1
None 24 28
Don't know 11 6

Observations

Q14. Were you asked about your family background — age, children, etc? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Yes 13
No 87

Q15. Were you asked whether you have other pets?

  %
Yes 3
No 97

Q16. Were you asked if the person you were buying it for had experience of this kind of pet?

  %
Yes 32
No 68

Q17. Were you asked whether you had, or knew anyone who keeps / has kept this species?

  %
Yes — whether you had kept before 16
Yes — whether knew anyone who had kept species 4
No 81

Q20. Were you spontaneously advised of further information on care / husbandry etc? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Yes — contact details of support group/other owners *
(IF YES, which?)
Yes — material on internet 12
Yes — printed material from shop 1
(IF YES From which shop or group?)
Yes — recommended books (which?) 8
Yes — recommended care sheets *
(IF YES from where?)
Yes — come into the shop and look around 7
Yes — advised to read books 11
Yes — information books from this shop 7
Yes — needs to be thought about 1
Yes — other (specify) 5
No 60

Q21. Were you encouraged / invited to visit the shop to discuss the species in more detail? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Yes 54
No 46

Q22. Were alternatives to the snake / lizard / bird / mammal suggested? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
Yes — Chinchilla 2
Yes — Corn snake 2
Yes — Gecko 2
Yes — Tortoise 2
Yes — Different breed of hamster 1
Yes — Different breed of snake 1
Yes — Different breed of lizard 1
Yes — Ferret 1
Other 3
No alternative suggested 88

Q23. Were you discouraged from buying the pet or was another pet recommended and why? Base: All Pet Shops (300)

  %
No other animal was recommended 78
Advised to read up and research animal before deciding 5
Told they are difficult / not easy to keep 4
Told they could not be handled easily 4
Discouraged as this type of animal can grow too big 4
Told easy to keep and look after / Suitable / Good pet 3
Recommended to buy a corn snake 2
Encouraged to buy a chinchilla 1
Encouraged to buy a gecko 1
Discouraged when I asked if I could return it 1
Told a license is required 1
Others 5
Don't know *

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