Animal Aid


Posted 27 June 2000
Lizard being handled

National pressure group Animal Aid recently launched a campaign to highlight the health risks of keeping reptiles in captivity and targeted Petworld - (located in Focus Do It All stores) - the last pet chain to sell reptiles. The campaign is now being stepped up as Animal Aid claims that Focus Do It All is being mis-advised by their 'experts'. The company has ended the sale of iguanas, because of their size, but are continuing to sell other reptiles despite government health warnings.

Demonstrations will take place across the country on June 30 and July 1 outside dozens of the company's branches, 70 of which already contain in-store Petworlds. This time campaigners, protected by bio-hazard suits, will venture inside the stores. There will be silent 'sit-downs' in stores where there are Petworld departments.

In an open letter to Focus Do It All, reptile biologist Clifford Warwick C.Biol., F.I.Biol., M.I.B.I., says of Focus Do It All's advisors:

"I am appalled at some of the irresponsible statements apparently attributable to or sanctioned by both Mr Divers and Dr Coote. For instance, the claim that 'Salmonella can only infect humans through transfer of faeces to the mouth', offers an erroneous and potentially dangerous precedent, and promotes disregard for other established transmission routes.

"While I do not doubt Mr Divers' abilities as a vet to treat many reptilian ailments, his credentials on such salient issues as reptile behavioural needs and captivity-stress are sufficiently minimal that I should regard him as a lay-person in these fields.

"If Dr Coote's public statements are being accurately reported they reveal, in my view, an apparent lack of important biological understanding of disease transmission."

The Department of Health recently re-issued a health warning, following the second infant death so far this year from contact with a salmonella-infected reptile. The health warning stated that children under five, pregnant women and the elderly should avoid all contact with reptiles. Animal Aid claim that Focus Do It All's profit-driven activities and their attempt to create a 'family-atmosphere' are jeopardising public health as well as animal welfare.

Nine out of ten captive reptiles are infected with salmonella. Therefore, it is a strong possibility that Focus Do It All members of staff, after cleaning out the reptile tanks, could transport the salmonella bacteria - lodged in their clothes, shoes or hair - around the store, shedding infectious material onto products as they go. This bacteria can survive for up to three months on a surface, which means that an unsuspecting member of the public could then purchase a product and carry the health hazard straight into his or her home. Such a risk, according to Clifford Warwick, one of a few scientists in Europe specifically qualified in this area, is not theoretical but very real.

All over the country, demonstrators will be inside Focus Do It All stores, dressed in bio-hazard costumes. Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid says:

"Reptiles suffer intolerably in captivity. As a result of this they become ill and threaten human health. Until such time as Focus Do It All withdraw from the pet reptile trade there should be signs clearly posted around the store detailing that children under five, pregnant women, the elderly and other people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk. Until Focus Do It All discontinue the sale of ALL reptiles, we feel compelled to continue to publicise their complacency on the issue."

Focus Do It All Protests Protests will be taking place in the following areas during the days of action on June 30 and July 1. Please contact us for details of times, local contacts etc. The list is still being added to, so please check the latest situation.

ABERDEENSHIRE Arbroath; BERKSHIRE Winnersh: BUCKINGHAMSHIRE High Wycombe; DYFED Pembroke Dock; HAMPSHIRE Waterlooville; HERTFORDSHIRE Borehamwood; HUMBERSIDE Scunthorpe; KENT Tunbridge Wells; Sevenoaks, LANCASHIRE Blackburn LINCOLNSHIRE Grimsby; LONDON Merton; MERSEYSIDE Widnes; NORFOLK Great Yarmouth; NOTTINGHAMSHIRE Nottingham RENFREWSHIRE Glasgow; STAFFORDSHIRE Burton Upon Trent; SURREY Camberley; SWANSEA Swansea; TYNE AND WEAR Washington, Sunderland; WEST MIDLANDS Dudley, WILTSHIRE Swindon; WORCESTERSHIRE Bromsgrove; YORKSHIRE Bradford.

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact Elaine Toland on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.
  • See also reptile campaign index.

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