Reaction of AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection to the draft Positive List in the Netherlands

AAP happy that Positive List makes clear distinction between suitable and unsuitable species. Choice for self-regulation a mistake.

Prairie dog, as of July no longer allowed as pet
Prairie dog, as of July no longer allowed as pet.

On Monday, The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs made public its decision on the draft Positive List: a list detailing the mammal species that are allowed to be kept as pets in the Netherlands, as well as defining the conditions in which an animal should be kept. Any animal  not on the list of 123 species presented by the Ministry is no longer allowed.

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection has been advocating for more than 25 years for such a list as a way to avoid the welfare impairments of too many animals being kept as pets. Moreover, there are substantial public health risks involved in exotic pet keeping as well as negative consequences for the environment when animals are released or escape and become invasive.

The clear distinction between suitable and unsuitable animals and the fact that the range of species allowed to be kept has been severely limited are extremely welcome moves and should set an important example which others can follow.  

However, AAP has very serious concerns about the proposed voluntary character of the keeping requirements which should apply to the 123 species which are now allowed as pets if welfare impairments and other risks are to be minimalized. These requirements are not legally binding in the current draft and nor does it look like the traders have an obligation to provide them to potential buyers. The preventative component of the Positive List is therefore severely weakened. 

David van Gennep, CEO of AAP: “We are very happy that on July 1st, after 25 years, there will finally be a Positive List in the Netherlands, and we are also happy that there is now a clear distinction between the animals that are suitable and not suitable as pets. The process towards the list has been thorough and thoughtful, with equal participation of animal welfare organizations, veterinarians and representatives of the pet keepers and traders. AAP has provided the Ministry with advice for the species assessments based on our experience and knowledge. Almost 60 percent of the surrendered or confiscated animals that AAP has rescued in the last 10 years were being kept by private individuals, so we know what we are talking about. Our efforts have paid off, but we cannot celebrate yet, because the welfare of pets cannot be guaranteed when they are not being kept under the right conditions. For that, good legislation is indispensable.”

Self-regulation does not work

Improvement in consumer behaviour in this field cannot be expected without strict regulations, as several scientific studies have proven. Moreover, the great diversity of providers in this sector, for example via the internet, makes self-regulation impossible. This would explain why since 1992, when the choice for a Positive List was made in Dutch law, no major steps in this direction have been taken. The Ministry’s plan is to leave implementation of the keeping requirements to the sector for the next three years, and then conduct an evaluation to see if the conditions need to be made mandatory. This choice for an ‘open rule policy’ sends,  in AAP’s view, the wrong signal.

The need for a central registration point

Evaluation without monitoring and registration is impossible. Therefore AAP has requested the creation of a central alert and registration point where keepers and potential buyers can have their questions answered and where problems are registered. Van Gennep explains: “On Monday I personally communicated to State Secretary Van Dam [Dutch equivalent to Minister] that AAP is prepared and willing to take up that task. We have the necessary expertise in-house. The Ministry has spent a lot of time, energy and money to create a system to assess species according to their suitability as pets. Not providing the means to monitor this properly, nor to increase the enforcement capacity is illogical and undesirable if we look at the goal we all want to achieve.”

AAP will use its legal option as a stakeholder in the current procedure in order to receive more information on how the implementation of the Positive List in the Netherlands will be carried out and to ensure the necessary checks and balances. AAP will advocate for crucial improvements to the decision and provide all relevant available data to sustain the claims

The leading role of the Netherlands

An increasing number of EU countries are showing interest in the Dutch Positive List. The Netherlands should highlight its commitment to leadership in the field of animal welfare by eliminating the current voluntary components of the draft decision and making the rules for both commercial and lobby keepers legally binding. “After 25 years, this is the moment to take the definitive step for exotic pets both in the Netherlands, and in Europe”, says Van Gennep.

The list and all background information can be found here (in Dutch): www.positieflijst.nl

For more information, please contact Raquel García, raquel.garcia@aap.nl