Call for ‘exotic animal’ rules after fire salamanders and natterjack toad seized

Illegal importers of animals understood to have been seeking to sell them as pets


The discovery of eight fire salamanders and a natterjack toad being brought into Ireland in the post has prompted the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) to call for tougher regulations on the breeding, keeping and selling of exotic animals.

The animals were intercepted earlier this year by Customs officials as they were being illegally imported from Spain. They have since been kept in quarantine and cared for by the ISPCA to ensure the salamanders were not carrying a highly pathogenic fungus.

The salamanders are being moved to a purpose-built facility at the Galway Atlantaquaria, while the toad will be rehoused at the Wild Ireland Education Centre.

The intention of those importing the animals is understood to have been to sell the animals as pets.

The ISPCA criticised the “irresponsible and illegal trade” of these species which it said posed a serious threat to salamander and newt species in Europe and North America. It said that two Horsefield tortoises were surrendered into its care last week by an owner who felt ill-equipped to care for them. A specialist vet has since diagnosed them as suffering from a sometimes fatal disease caused by a calcium deficiency.

Slow death

A Burmese python was discovered abandoned in the Wicklow Mountains in May. These South Asian reptiles can grow up to 23ft in length and would likely suffer a slow death in the Irish climate. A Hermann’s tortoise and an axolotl - known more widely as a Mexican walking fish- were recently rescued from a Roscommon property.

Conor Dowling, ISPCA chief inspector, said the organisation had “serious concerns about the poor standard of care provided to exotic animals that need specific environmental and nutritional requirements”.

These animals were often allowed to suffer because owners do not know how to care for them properly, he said, adding that these people were often poorly advised when purchasing the animals.

“What must also be taken into consideration is that there can be a huge disparity between the size of exotic animals when they are babies and when they are fully mature,” he added.

The ISPCA wants a “positive list of species” to be introduced in order to detail which animals can be bred, kept and sold, with only those with relatively simple welfare needs being allowed as pets.