Inventariserend onderzoek naar het aanbod en de gezondheids- en welzijnsconditie van bijzondere dieren bij kinderboerderijen en dierenweides in Nederland
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In the Netherlands there are 30,7 million companion animals. A part of this consists of dogs and cats, the rest of it are exotic animals. From a brief research from the sector itself, it is known that on a yearly basis many pets are handed over or are left behind at petting zoos. However, a systematic research has never done before. The purpose of this research is to make an inventory of the species and numbers of exotic animals that are handed over or are left behind at petting zoos in the Netherlands, the reasons for relinquishment and to make an inventory of the health and welfare condition of the animals. Finally there has been investigated what happens to the animals after the arrival on the petting zoo. For this research a digital survey was used, this survey was sent to 421 petting zoos in the Netherlands. Seven petting zoos were also interviewed. 175 petting zoos filled in the digital survey, this is a response percentage of 41,6%. At 92% of the responding petting zoos exotic animals are being offered of relinquished. In 61% of the cases the owners ask permission before giving an animal to the petting zoo, in 38% of the cases the animals are left behind. On a yearly basis 9.277 animals are offered to the 175 responding petting zoos which are not accepted and 12.422 mammals, 6.575 birds, 149 fish, 274 reptiles and 36 amphibians are presented and accepted or relinquished at petting zoos. 80,9% of the petting zoos notice seasonal differences either in species or number of animals that are offered or relinquished at petting zoos. Especially in summer more animals were presented to petting zoos. This are mostly rabbits (mentioned by 83,7% of the petting zoos) and guinea pigs (mentioned by 52,7% of the respondents). Reasons given by the owner for surrendering an animal were: an allergy of the owner or family members (37% of the cases), loss of interest (14%) and shortage of time (13%). 32,5% of the responding petting zoos also state that there are species differences in reasons for surrender. Chickens were more often given away because they cause inconvenience or there is a surplus of (male) animals. Rabbits and guinea pigs are mainly given away because of a loss of interest in the animal, allergies and shortage of time. Rabbits are also relinquished because of behaviour problems (aggression). Most of all these animals (46%) are adults. In response to the question about what percentage of the presented and relinquished animals have health or behaviour problems, the majority of the respondents state that 0-5% of the animals have these problems. However, higher percentages are also mentioned for mammals and birds (more than 5% is mentioned in 55% of the cases for mammals and 22% for birds). When asked for a further specification of health and behaviour problems the following items were mentioned: aggression (rabbits), skin disorders (guinea pigs with scabies), dental problems, overweight, long nails and diarrhoea are mentioned for mammals. For birds parasites, aggression, diarrhoea and feather picking are mentioned. The majority of petting zoos also mentioned that 0-10% of the animals show signs of neglect, however for mammals higher percentages were also mentioned. Most respondents mention that 0-5% of the animals die within a few days after arrival on the petting zoo. In most cases animals die because they were already in a poor condition. 57,5% of the petting zoos places an animal in quarantine after arrival. In the long term animals are being kept in the petting zoo, alternatively, the petting zoo finds new owners for the animal, the animals go to a pet shelter or to an animal trader. The average time an animal stays at the petting zoo, varies (from one day until the animal dies). From the interviews and the results of the survey it appeared that petting zoos suspect that animals are bought in an impulse and that the knowledge level of consumers of the natural behaviour and the needs of an animal is insufficient. Especially with exotic animals an adequate nutrition, care and housing are important for a good health condition and a good welfare. A better education of consumers at selling points and a more efficient use of reliable and central information points such as the National Information Center for Companion Animals, is recommended.