The BSAVA prefers the term “non-traditional companion animal” (NTCA) over the term “exotic pet” as it considers that this better describes the species involved. The BSAVA considers NTCAs as those animals that are not traditionally domesticated or kept as pets in the UK and whose welfare needs can be more difficult to meet in a domestic environment. The BSAVA believes that any species of animal kept as a pet should be captive-bred, but it acknowledges that there may be occasions when animals that have not been captive-bred can be reasonably kept, such as for conservation reasons and in the event of customs seizures.

Using the five welfare needs as an appropriate framework for assessing the welfare of all species kept as companion animals is required by law, and the BSAVA strongly supports this approach.

The BSAVA acknowledges that it can be more difficult to meet the welfare needs of NTCAs both because required resources are less readily available, and also because the exact welfare needs of some species are not well known.

The BSAVA strongly recommends that, in line with the BSAVA’s view on responsible pet ownership, any person considering keeping an NTCA should establish how they will meet the welfare needs of the animal before they purchase or take responsibility for the animal.

There is limited evidence regarding both the number of NTCA that are currently kept in the UK and the problems associated with keeping them and, as a result, veterinary surgeons who regularly treat NTCA acknowledge that further improvements are needed. Therefore, the BSAVA supports any initiative aimed at improving the health and welfare of these animals. The BSAVA acknowledges that there are some species which it is not appropriate to keep as companion animals. This would include but is not limited to, some of those listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (as amended 2007).


January 2022

Background information

The CALLISTO (Companion Animals multisectoriaL Interdisciplinary Strategic Think tank On zoonoses) defines companion animals as ‘any domesticated, domestic-bred or wild-caught animal permanently living in a community and kept by people for company, amusement, work (e.g. support for blind or deaf people, police or military dogs) or psychological support including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds and ornamental fish.’ (1)
The BSAVA accepts most of the CALLISTO definition of companion animals although, for the purposes of this statement, fish and invertebrates have been excluded. As per the BVA Policy statement on NTCAs, fish are excluded as there are a number of considerations relating to the keeping of fish as companion animals that are separate from those relating to other NTCAs (3).

Legislation relating to non-traditional companion animals:

Other statements


 (1) Day MJ (2016) The CALLISTO Project: A Summary. Journal of Comparative Pathology 155(1), pp. S1-S7. Available from: CALLISTO Project

(3) BVA Policy Statement – Non-traditional companion animals


Reviewed by John Chitty and members of BSAVA Scientific Committee (Alexander German, Jeremy Kirk, Caroline Kisielewicz, Lisa Morrow, Ian Self, Melissa Upjohn, James Warland) 2022

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