What are the arguments put forward by the petitioners for the introduction of a "positive list"?

How do activists manipulate the facts for the sake of animal positive lists?

An expert analysed their articles on the alleged threat of disease transmission from bred animals to humans

It is animal rights activists from several lobbying organisations who want to push for EU-wide positive
lists of animals that would enlist just a limited number of exotic species allowed for pet breeding
within the European Union. The chairman of the Prague Terrarium Society and employee of the State
Health Institute Dr. Petr Kodym, Ph.D., who lectures on epidemiology at the Faculty of Science of the
Charles University in Prague, analysed several key articles that these activists have referred to in
advocating for a positive list of pet animals breeding. They argue primarily for the spread of various
zoonotic diseases that could cause a pandemic similar to Covid-19.

"The articles are written with the clear intention of supporting the bans, even the addresses of the
authors show a share of activist organizations. Even the titles are appalling, as are the abstracts and
keywords used. At first glance, they suggest that the importation and breeding of exotic animals will
supposedly inevitably lead to the introduction of deadly pathogens that will infect humans en masse
and cause numerous large-scale epidemics of serious life-threatening diseases. The activists'
conclusion is that the only way to stop this scourge is strict blanket bans on all exotic animals," says
Petr Kodym in his analysis, which the Prague Terrarium Society uses for argumentation when dealing
with state authorities and legislators about the meaninglessness of positive animal lists.

 The expert cites in particular the extensive study " Turning Negatives into Positives for Pet Trading
and Keeping: A Review of Positive Lists " published by the team of authors at (Animals | Free Full-
Text | Turning Negatives into Positives for Pet Trading and Keeping: A Review of Positive Lists
which discusses the alleged negative impact of exotic pets on human health. "The reader
who gets engrossed into the text a bit more will appreciate the very accurate mapping of pet exports
and imports of various taxonomic groups - what, from where, where, how many... The numbers,
however, are not annual but over many years, so they are very high. This in itself is sometimes
enough for the authors to seemingly logical conclusion that these high numbers are evidence for the
introduction of a large of zoonotic pathogens and causing countless epidemics, but without anything
about specific cases," says Peter Kodym.

In addition to statistics on animal exports and imports, the authors of the study listed the most
common diseases of these animals, but without any relation to these statistics. "For better targeting,
some infections (almost all) are labelled zoonotic. But they don't take into account the basic rule of
host specificity of pathogens: "It's dog fleas, they don't go to humans!" If one representative of a
particular genus is specific to reptiles and another to humans, it does not mean that transmission is
possible and it is a zoonotic disease. The question is whether this is unprofessionalism on the part of
the authors or an intention to manipulate the reader. The articles have no scientific value and a
decent peer-reviewed journal should never accept them," says Petr Kodym.

Confusion between the number of animal infections and the number of human infections

In another article, "Trafficking in deadly pathogens: an assessment of the legal trade in Live Wildlife
Trade and the Potential Risks to Human Health," published in 2019 by journal Global Ecology and
Conservation, the authors, according to Peter Kodym, tend to address the numbers of animals legally
traded over five years, and what is being shipped from where to where. "The numbers are always
over a five-year period, so they look higher," he says. The text then goes on to list the animal
diseases, not all of which, however, can be described as zoonoses, or diseases transmissible from
animal to human. These include trichomonads and scabies. "Species of the same genus that are
parasite humans and animals are different. For example, Trichomonas vaginalis cannot be
transferred from a bird to human", says Petr Kodym.

The article also mentions that between 2008 and 2016, 82 zoonoses were caused in mammals,
amphibians, birds and reptiles, with a total of 3,131 cases in 54 countries. "But beware. These are
cases of animal infections. These infections are zoonotic. But so far I haven't found in the article any
description of transmission of these zoonotic diseases to humans - so "could be" - but it's not
recorded. The only two specific cases are transmission of monkeypox via canines to Americans and
salmonellosis from water turtles," points out Petr Kodym, who says the literature since 1945
describes only a minimum of cases of disease transmission from imported animals to humans. It is
mere 28 scientific articles. But the authors of the article explain this by the lack of interest of experts
in this topic, and they consider the problem to be a big one. The result? A recommendation to ban
pet breeding.

"Conclusion? A lot of animals are being imported, many of them have zoonotic diseases, thus there
could be a massive transmission of infections with terrible consequences. The fact that there is
minimal evidence - casuistry - doesn't mean that the danger isn't big, but that still no one has noticed
it properly," paraphrases the message of the article by Petr Kodym. In the following text "Risky
Business: Imports of non-CITES live organisms into the UK and the potential for infectious diseases",
published in 2020 by MDPI.com, the authors provide a detailed review of the importation of 'non-
CITES' animals into the UK between 2014 and 2018, but without any mention of how many of these
animals were thought to be infected with any disease. "Of these (non) data, they conclude that many
different animals are being imported, posing a huge risk of zoonotic disease transmission to humans,
a threat to human health, outbreaks of epidemics, etc.," points out Petr Kodym.

Dogs and cats are the biggest vectors of diseases

A separate section provides an overview of zoonotic diseases, their hosts and transmission to
humans. "It is clear that transmission to humans via bred exotic animals has a negligible impact
worldwide in regard to the number and severity of cases. Even in the transmission of exotic diseases,
the increasing reasons are the expansion of humans into natural habitats, globalization, increasing
ecotourism, the popularity of exotic foods, etc. The real risk of zoonotic diseases is represented by
classical domestic animals. The domestic dog is, among other things, a reservoir host for the most
dangerous zoonotic disease - rabies, which causes the deaths of approximately 50,000 to 60,000
people worldwide every year," explains Petr Kodym and adds: "If one should think of a reservoir for
numerous serious diseases - toxoplasmosis as the most serious one - the domestic cat is the most
important of them."

Bornavirus case in squirrels and the death of three breeders

"Salmonella infections transmitted from reptiles (water turtles, iguanas, bearded agamas, snakes ...)
to children under 5 years of age are probably the most common. A certain exclamation point is the
spread of a fatal zoonotic bornavirus infection in German tropical squirrel breeding, which
fortunately was mapped and brought under control by the rapid intervention of German virologists.
The articles on these cases give a factual analysis of the situation, and none of them call for bans,"
says Petr Kodym. In this context, the most dangerous case mentioned is probably the case of
bornavirus infection transmitted by squirrels in Germany. Three elderly breeders from Saxony-
Anhalt, aged 63, 62 and 72, who had been breeding South American squirrels Sciurus variegatoides
together for a long time, were successively infected. "They developed a febrile neurological disease
(encephalitis) to which they all succumbed after 2-4 months. Molecular genetic,
immunohistochemical and histological examination of material from the brains of the patients and
the tissues of the squirrels revealed an unknown bornavirus, which was named variegated squirrel 1
bornavirus (VSBV-1)," Petr Kodym iquotes from one of the articles. This was followed by a large-scale
undertaking in which squirrels kept in German zoos and private breeding facilities, including
breeders, were examined en masse. "The route of spread of the virus in German breeds was
mapped. It proved that bornavirus had entered German squirrels from Prevost's squirrels and spread
with the movement of animals. In order to bring the disease under control, the squirrels need to be
examined and the infected ones eliminated," adds Petr Kodym.

Activists quote what suits them, without context

The last group of articles from which activists drew their information serving as a basis for
the repression targeting animal breeders, deal with the problems caused by the emergence of antibiotic-
resistant bacteria in bred and wild animals. "Antibiotic-resistant bacteria antibiotic-resistant bacteria
are found in exotic animals and imported tropical aquarium fish and complicate their treatment. The
paper demonstrates that transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (including MRSA, the scourge of
operating theatres) can occur between dogs and humans. Resistant bacteria can also escape into the
wild, spread over long distances and become hidden threat," says Petr Kodym. The articles cited are
interesting, but do not have any connection with the positive lists. "The author of the summary study
probably needed to write that the introduction and breeding of exotic animals can cause the spread
of antibiotic resistance, and he supported this by citing four randomly found articles that he did not
even read," the expert criticises the activists. Such "skimmed" information from both expert and less
expert texts, however, organisations fighting for the introduction of positive lists of pet animals in
the European Union, misuse in their discussions with politicians and create the impression that exotic
captive-bred animals pose a major health risk. Yet in the case of birds, for example, the European
Union has banned any importation of wild-caught specimens already in 2004 and only captive-bred
birds are traded.