NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--EcoHealth Alliance, now in its 40th year of operation, today announced the launch of a new program called PetWatch. Developed from scientific research on global wildlife trade into the U.S., the PetWatch program evaluates imported wildlife species slated for the commercial pet trade and encourages responsible exotic pet choices and ownership. Pet ownership provides so many positive aspects to our daily lives such as stress reduction and relaxation. Previous research shows that pets are truly regarded as members of the American family and experts are looking to also understand the dynamic animals have in relation to children and our aging population.
The program’s foremost goals are to protect natural resources, native wildlife, global biodiversity, and public health from non-native wildlife entering U.S. borders. Scientific experts from multi-disciplinary fields such as conservation biology, disease ecology, invasive species biology and veterinary medicine developed the Best, Fair and Worst choice pet rankings for over 50 exotic species. All of the rankings are presented on a first-of-its-kind, mobile-friendly website (www.PetWatch.net) geared towards consumers to help provide insight and education surrounding exotic pet ownership for one’s family and home.
The PetWatch website offers consumers up-to-date information about popular exotic species and features rankings based on established criteria for sustainability of wild populations, invasion threats, animal welfare and public health concerns. Each pet report includes general species information as well as recommendations relevant to each criterion. “Sixty-two percent of U.S. households own a pet, and a growing number of people are interested in something more exotic than a cat, dog or guinea pig. With access to literally thousands of exotic species in the pet trade, it can be difficult to know which to choose, or how. PetWatch pulls together the best available information from industry and academia to help families select pets that are safe for them and the environment,” said Dr. Kate Smith, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University.
The scale of the global wildlife trade is extraordinary and the illegal portion of this trade is estimated at $20 billion per year – the second largest black market category next to narcotics.
In fact, 13 million mammals, birds and reptiles are extracted illegally from ecosystems globally according to currently available trade and law enforcement records. The legal and illegal wildlife trade generates billions of dollars in revenue within source and destination countries. Alongside the personal and economic benefits of the wildlife trade, there exists wide-ranging potential for negative impacts. “We need to examine the broader consequences of the wildlife trade, including pets. Overharvesting of animals has led to extinction of species in the past, ethical concerns about the way animals are treated, and the introduction of non-native species. With PetWatch we also consider the risk that this trade can introduce diseases that threaten the health of native wildlife and ourselves,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, Disease Ecologist and President of EcoHealth Alliance.
The U.S. is the world’s leading importer of wildlife. Since 2000, more than 1.4 billion live animals have been imported to the country, 90% of which were intended for commercial sale in the pet trade. Prevention is the most effective means of reducing the potentially harmful effects of importing non-native species and ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare. “We believe the current state of wildlife trade regulations underscore the need for alternative strategies to protect native wildlife and animal welfare in both source and destination nations, including straightforward information to make informed pet purchasing choices,” said Dr. William Karesh, international wildlife veterinarian and Senior Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance.
PetWatch is made possible by generous support from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, the Cestone Foundation, EcoHealth Alliance, Brown University, and individual scientists who have volunteered their time to research and review the species ranked by the program.
PetWatch is a first-of-its-kind mobile-friendly website that guides consumers to make informed decisions about exotic pets. Rooted in scientific research on global wildlife trade, PetWatch provides rankings for the Best, Fair and Worst choices of exotic pets for the well being of your family and the environment. For more information, please visit www.petwatch.net.
About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on 40 years of innovative science, EcoHealth Alliance (formerly Wildlife Trust) is a non-profit international conservation organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Our team specializes in saving biodiversity in human-dominated ecosystems where ecological health is most at risk from habitat loss, species imbalance, pollution and other environmental issues. EcoHealth Alliance scientists also identify and examine the causes affecting the health of global ecosystems in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, education, training, and support from a global network of EcoHealth Alliance conservation partners. For more information please visit www.ecohealthalliance.org.
EcoHealth Alliance is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization.