In the past, native animals could not be kept as companion animals unless a government permit was issued. However, over the past few years, some jurisdictions across Australia have allowed and continue to allow certain species of native animals to be kept as pets without requiring a permit. The RSPCA is opposed to the taking from the wild and keeping of native or introduced animals as companion animals (pets) due to the significant risk that their behavioural, physiological and social needs will not be met.
In many cases native animals require specialised husbandry and facilities to mimic their natural environment and meet their physiological, behavioural and social needs, and ecological requirements. Meeting these requirements is extremely difficult in a home or domestic setting.
Domestic animals have been selectively bred for hundreds or even thousands of years to ensure they have behavioural and physiological qualities that make them suitable for life as a companion animal. In contrast, wild animals are adapted to the wild, rarely enjoy human company or handling, and are often predominantly nocturnal in their habits.
The RSPCA believes that captive-bred wild animals should not be kept as pets unless there is clear evidence that they will have a good quality of life and the following criteria can be met:
- Their physiological, social and behavioural needs can readily be met
- Accurate information on the husbandry, care and veterinary treatment of the species is readily available and implemented in their care and husbandry
- A suitably experienced veterinarian is available and utilised as needed
- They pose no health or public safety risks to humans or other animals
All pet animals not intended for breeding should be desexed.
Any proposals for the keeping of endangered native animals as pets as a means of raising awareness about their conservation must adequately address the above criteria and any additional conservation, ecological or animal welfare issues arising. Alternative ways of engaging the community to protect and conserve our native animals that do not pose welfare risks are encouraged.
To help address the decline of particular endangered species, rather than keeping these animals as pets, those interested in supporting conservation work should be directly affiliated with a specialist captive breeding centre which coordinates a formal conservation program. This would involve regular inspections to ensure the animals were being appropriately cared for and that the program was achieving its goal to help save endangered species. Without this level of oversight, there is a significant risk of compromised welfare and failure to actually protect these species.