Exotic pet statistics show a clear rise in the demand for unusual pets, but what do we truly know about the trade?

The thriving industry is worth over $15 billion a year. So there’s a serious amount of animals shipped worldwide.

And these are merely the recorded numbers. To help you better understand the exotic pet trade, we put together the most crucial information about it. Let’s take a look. 

Little Known Exotic Pets Facts

  • 50% of pets in the US are considered exotic.
  • About 140 non-native reptiles and amphibians have been introduced to Florida.
  • The exotic pet industry is worth $15 billion a year.
  • 75% of reptiles from pet shops die within the first year.
  • Between 1990–2021, over 1,300 exotic pets have escaped in the US.
  • In 2011, over 50 wild animals were released in Zanesville, Ohio.
  • There were 91 incidents of death by exotic pets between 1990–2021.
  • 75% of human infections started with an animal-borne disease.

What Is an Exotic Pet? 

Researching exotic pet statistics for 2022, we see there are quite a few definitions, but to keep things simple here’s what we’ve gathered. 

In our book, an exotic pet is an unusual species that you wouldn’t expect to see around a house or in a cage. This includes big cats, primates, reptiles, amphibians, and rare birds. Exotic could also be an animal that is not native to the area, so think of a kangaroo in the US, it doesn’t really make sense, but it happens.

Exotic Pet Ownership Statistics

Most people don’t understand a great deal about what it takes to own and care for an exotic animal. Yet, the industry grows by the day,

1. 50% of Pets in the US Are Considered Exotic.

(Source: Ecological Society of America)

  • Between 1994–2012, owning amphibians and reptiles jumped from 2.4 million to 5.6 million
  • In some countries, keeping exotic animals is more common than domesticated animals. For example, 22% of homes in Indonesia own a bird, whereas less than 3% own a cat or dog. 
  • The US imports the most marine aquarium fish in the world. That’s more than 11 million fish a year. 

Let’s explore more information on exotic animals as pets and their statistics.

2. About 140 Non-Native Reptiles and Amphibians Have Been Introduced to Florida.

(Source: Ecological Society of America)

  • Out of those species, over 85% were imported via the pet trade. Unfortunately, due to the sheer demand, poaching is a serious threat to animals across the world.
  • Brazil has a similar situation with mammals. Exotic pet ownership statistics show that the pet trade imports 70% of them into the country. Also, it steadily increased between 1990–2017. 
  • The exotic pets market is growing. In the 90s, between 2–5 million birds were sold globally. As of 2018, the US has over three million pet birds alone.

Unfortunately, the rising need for exotic animals has led to the massive rise of the black market trade. But what does this mean for the animals and us? 

Two primates lying on the floor with some straw, one looking up at the camera blankly

Exotic Pet Statistics

3. The Exotic Pet Industry Is Worth $15 Billion a Year.

(Source: The Hornet Online)

  • Monkeys are the most common primate that private owners hold. Some species are also among the most expensive pets, with a Capuchin monkey costing upwards of $8,500.
  • Big cats are also quite popular, especially in the US that has 10,000 of them. There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild — 5,000 in the US and only 3,200 roaming free. 
  • Only 6% of the big cats in the US are in reputable facilities like a zoo or captivity center. 

So, that’s what the pet trade in the US statistics are like. Now, let’s look at what’s happening to exotic pets worldwide.

4. 75% of Reptiles From Pet Shops Die Within the First Year.

(Source: World Animal Protection)

  • There are over one million exotic pets in China. 
  • Every year, 500 reptiles and 500 bird species are traded worldwide.
  • Singapore is one of the largest pet importers. Between 2016–2019, its numbers grew by 10% year on year.

Now, you might be thinking — what’s the harm in owning an exotic pet? Well, it can get a bit dangerous.

Exotic Pet Escape Statistics

Exotic pets can cause a serious amount of damage, but we’ll get to that shortly. Let’s explore the chances of your pet escaping. 

5. Between 1990–2021, Over 1300 Exotic Pets Have Escaped in the US.

(Source: Born Free USA)

  • On June 11th, 2021, a pigtailed macaque escaped from its home in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, it injured four people.
  • A rare getaway happened on October 7th, 2020, when a baby red kangaroo escaped from a truck in Monroe, Washington. 
  • Exotic pet incident statistics show it’s not just these animals that get out. Circus animals are notorious for their break frees. For example, an elephant of the Great American Circus escaped in 1990 in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Breaking free is one thing, but animal attacks are quite another. Let’s look at some exotic pet attacks and their statistics.

6. In 2011, Over 50 Wild Animals Were Released in Zanesville, Ohio.

(Source: Treehugger)

  • It all came from a man who kept the wild animals on his property. Promptly after releasing them, he shot himself. The sheriff had no choice but to shoot and kill 50 of the escaped animals, including lions, wolves, bears, and tigers. Luckily, no people were harmed besides the owner, who was bitten by a tiger after his death. 
  • Exotic pet injury statistics remind us of a case in 2009 where a pet chimp attacked and brutally mauled a family friend trying to return the pet to its cage. As a result, Charla Nash had the first double hand and face transplant.
  • In the same year, a two-year-old girl was strangled and killed by a captive python owned by her parents. 

If that’s not bad enough, brace yourself for more horrifying stories.

Tiger lying in some sand with paws over a big tree branch roaring into the camera

Death by Exotic Pet Statistics

Owning an exotic pet comes with a whole lot more responsibilities. 

Still, domesticated animals can also cause severe damage, like the 4.5 million dog bites occurring annually in the US. That’s why products like the wireless dog fence exist. But there aren’t specific products for exotic pets, which presents a massive issue.

7. There Were 91 Death Incidents Caused by Exotic Pets Between 1990–2021.

(Source: Born Free USA)

  • It might not sound like a lot, but these are only the officially reported cases. Unfortunately, many people hold exotic pets illegally and hide the damage they cause to avoid legal prosecution. 
  • Exotic pet statistics in the US reveal that on October 30th, 2019, in a home with over 140 reptiles in Oxford, Indiana, the police discovered a woman strangled by an eight-foot-long python.
  • On December 30th, 2018, a zoo worker in Burlington, North Carolina, was attacked by a lion who escaped its pen. The man died, and so did the lion after failed tranquilization attempts. 

But it’s not just physical attacks we should be wary of.

8. 75% of Human Infection Started With an Animal-Borne Disease.

(Source: Journal of Pediatric Health Care)

  • We avoid salmonella at all costs by cooking chicken thoroughly. But these aren’t the only animals to watch out for. Exotic pet statistics show reptiles can carry the very same bacteria, and you don’t have to eat one to get infected. 
  • Between 2009–2011, a Salmonella typhimurium outbreak linked to pet frogs made over 224 children incredibly sick.
  • Salmonella affects about 1.2 million people in the US each year. 11% of the cases come from contact with a reptile — that’s 132,000 people. 

So, it’s not just bites and scratches you should be fearful of. Just touching an exotic animal can make you sick. 

Illegal Exotic Pet Statistics

It might surprise you to find out how many of these animals are kept illegally.

9. 35 States Ban Keeping Big Cats.

(Source: Big Cat Rescue) 

  • Exotic pet trade statistics report that six states have no laws against keeping big cats — Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Delaware, and Oklahoma. That’s despite all the evidence showing how dangerous captive animals can be. 
  • While tiny and absolutely adorable, the sugar glider takes a lot more work than other pets of that size. They’re illegal in California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Minnesota, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Utah.
  • Likewise, hedgehog pets are illegal in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. 

So, what can you do to help these animals?

Tiny hedgehog sitting on green grass

How to Stop Global Exotic Pet Trade Statistics

If there’s no demand, the trade will cease to exist. Here’s what you can do to stop the mistreatment of exotic animals:

  • Don’t buy exotic pets.
  • Visit only ethical and regulated captivity centers.
  • Don’t go to live animal shows.
  • If someone you know owns an exotic pet, make them aware of the dangers. 
  • Sign petitions and donate what you can. 

It’s not only the exotic animals to be aware of. Common household pets also contribute a great deal to the pet trade so always ensure you find a reputable breeder.

Wrap Up

Despite the knowledge we have on exotic pets, the problem remains. These animals are tortured and kept cruelly for our enjoyment.

Most exotic pets are wild, and that’s where they belong, not cooped up as a pet. 

The only way to truly stop the trade is to eliminate the demand. If nobody wants exotic pets, traders won’t catch them. But exotic pet statistics show that the $15 billion industry is growing, and we need to do what we can to stop it.

  1. Ecological Society of America
  2. The Hornet Online
  3. World Animal Protection
  4. Born Free USA
  5. Treehugger
  6. Born Free USA
  7. Journal of Pediatric Health Care
  8. Big Cat Rescue
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