The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working with pet industry stakeholders and biosecurity agencies to improve the management of the domestic trade in pets that have the potential to become pests.
“New Zealanders love their pets and most are kept securely and are well looked after,” says Erik Van Eyndhoven, MPI’s Principal Adviser Conservation.
“However some pet species have the potential to establish wild populations and can cause adverse impacts on the environment, our economy and health.”
Examples of pet species that have already established in parts of New Zealand include the eastern rosella parakeet, rainbow lorikeet and koi carp.
“Species like these could be included in the accord because they pose problems for our native ecosystems and can also have economic impacts,” says Mr Van Eyndhoven.
The eastern rosella and rainbow lorikeet are known to attack crops and can compete with native birds for resources. They can also spread bird diseases. Koi carp churn up the beds of waterbodies when feeding, leading to reduced water quality and lower habitat quality for native species.
“New Zealanders spend millions of dollars managing pests each year and we have learned that preventing species becoming pests in the first place is the best course of action.”
MPI has established the National Pest Pet Biosecurity Accord (NPPBA) to reduce the risks of the domestic trade in pets leading to new pests. Members of the NPPBA will include the Pet Industry Association, the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, Department of Conservation, regional councils and unitary authorities. The Accord is mirrored on the National Pest Plant Accord, which has been successful in removing high-risk plant species from the nursery trade.
Currently, there are about 1,800 pet species legally able to be kept in New Zealand and approximately 95% of these are considered to pose low biosecurity risks.
“Consequently, the vast majority of pet species currently able to be traded domestically won’t be affected,” says Mr Van Eyndhoven.
“The Accord will focus on species that are kept primarily as pets which are not widely established in the wild and don’t currently have a regulatory framework for their management. This means that cats, dogs, domestic livestock and a range of other species are explicitly out of scope.”
The NPPBA will only affect breeding, distribution and sale of pet species. Its focus is on managing risks associated with the trade in pets and encouraging good pet ownership practices.
“The NPPBA will develop what is expected to be a short list of pet species that will be regulated and this will be available on MPI’s website following a risk assessment and decision-making process.”
“Some species may be banned from breeding, distribution and sale and we’re working with the pet industry and other affected parties to come up with a practical solution.”