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All creatures great and minute: a public policy primer for companion animal zoonoses

By J. K. Reaser, E. E. Clark, N. M. Meyers

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Approximately 63% of US households have at least one pet, a large percentage of which are considered family members. Pet owners can derive substantial physical and psychological benefits from interaction with companion animals. However, pet ownership is not without risks; zoonotic diseases are increasingly drawing the attention of healthcare professionals, policy makers and the general public. While zoonoses of 'traditional' pets are widely recognized and their prevention and treatment factors are generally known, the growing popularity of 'non-traditional' pets has the potential to facilitate human exposure to novel zoonoses. However, the greatest risk of zoonoses probably arises from animals taken directly from the wild to serve as pets. Non-governmental organizations, state veterinary associations and others have been calling for increased regulation of animal imports, some proposing that all 'exotics' be banned from the pet trade. Because zoonotic diseases of companion animals are influenced by interacting factors of ecological, technical, socio-economic, and political origin, efforts to minimize their impact need be multi-dimensional, simultaneously addressing both the ecological and socio-political drivers of disease emergence and transmission. This study is intended to serve as a primer for animal care professionals seeking to engage with policy makers and the pet industry on the prevention of companion animal zoonoses. We provide background on the human-animal bond, risks of zoonoses associated with groups of companion animals, and the public policy context, as well as identify the factors needed to build a comprehensive approach to companion animal zoonoses risk management. Also included are examples of innovative, non-regulatory initiatives designed to limit the spread and impact of companion animal zoonoses, including a reptile salmonella poster, the National Reptile Improvement Plan, HabitattitudeTM campaign, Pet Zoonoses Committee, and a wildlife disease surveillance initiative known as Project TripWire.

Date 2008
Publication Title Zoonoses and Public Health
Volume 55
Issue 8/10
Pages 385-401
ISBN/ISSN 1863-1959
DOI 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2008.01123.x
Language English
Author Address Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, Washington, Dist. of Columbia,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agencies and organizations
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal health and hygiene
  4. Bacteria
  5. Biological resources
  6. Diseases
  7. Drivers
  8. Households
  9. Imports
  10. International trade
  11. Mammals
  12. Parasites
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. pest control
  15. Pets and companion animals
  16. Policy and Planning
  17. politics
  18. prevention
  19. Primates
  20. prokaryotes
  21. regulations
  22. Reptiles
  23. risk
  24. Salmonella
  25. surveillance
  26. transmission
  27. treatment
  28. Wild animals
  29. wildlife
  30. Zoology
  31. Zoonoses
  1. peer-reviewed