Science - April 19, 2012

Domestic animals list being compiled

Wageningen UR Livestock Research is compiling for state secretary Bleker a list of mammals which are suitable for keeping as domestic animals. A team of animal researchers is getting scientific justification to support such a 'positive list'.

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The team - which includes Paul Koene - will draw up a list which shows the differences in behaviour and wellbeing of animal species in the wild and in captivity. Therefore, the characteristics of mammals in the wild and in a domestic setting are being entered into a database. The natural behaviour of a hundred species is being analysed in detail. One of the results of this analysis, for example, indicates that keeping domestic cats, domestic mice, ferrets or American fox squirrels in the home does not go against their natural behaviour. 'Porcupines, zebra mongooses, nutria, degus and meerkats are less suitable as pets for individuals,' says Koene.
The researchers have begun a survey to find out which mammals are kept as pets in Dutch homes and to gather more published materials about their behaviour, wellbeing and health as domesticated animals. 'We have to make the information objective enough for the positive list to be used legally as well,' says Koene.
That can pose a problem, though, as some domesticated animals are not exactly at their best condition. For example, dogs are often lonely and unable to express their natural behaviour. Yet, such species occupy a firm position on the positive list due to cultural and historical reasons. At the other end of the spectrum are wild animals which are currently being kept under specific conditions. The determining factor continues to be whether the health and wellbeing of a species is harmed when it is being kept by individuals.
The survey has been designed to get a good picture of this aspect. People asked to contribute to the list inlcude those who keep mammals at home, experts, refuge centres and lovers of particular species of mammals. They can provide information on each animal species on positieflijst.nl. In this way, practical knowledge can also play a role in determining which mammals can be kept by individuals. The positive list will be a feature in the new animal law which will come into force on 1 January 2013.

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