Squirrels on sale: trendy pets or just a little nuts

SMH: ERIK JENSEN; August 1, 2010

Pest potential ... a male squirrel for sale for $1200 in a Broadway pet store.

Pest potential … a male squirrel for sale for $1200 in a Broadway pet store. Photo: Jon Reid
THEY are touted as the next big thing in niche pets – hand-reared squirrels being sold in Sydney pet shops for more than $1200.

They are also regarded by the federal government as an “extreme threat” to Australia.

“That’s just someone behind a desk, mate,” said Chris Hibbard, who runs a squirrel-breeding farm in western Sydney. “There’s never been any study done that says they will become a pest. That’s just the government saying scientifically they’re related to a rat and we have rat and mice problems. I cannot see how any animal who produces one or three animals in a nest could become a problem.”

Squirrels may be kept as pets in NSW as long as they are desexed and microchipped.

There are eight licensed squirrel breeders in NSW. But Mr Hibbard said he was the only one breeding the northern palm squirrel for sale in pet shops, where they first appeared three months ago. “I think they will be a very popular pet in the inner city, because of housing,” he said.

Mr Hibbard would not reveal how many squirrels he had on his farm at Berkshire Park but said the breeding numbers had doubled in the last season.

Five shops are selling the animals in Sydney.

“People are interested in them but they are very expensive,” Pets on Broadway assistant manager Katherine Weeks said of the two squirrels her shop has for sale. “They’ve the temperament of rats. You need a harness on them. They do run [at] 15 km/h.”

Invasive Species Council policy officer Carol Booth said the dangers posed by a feral squirrel population were not worth the benefits of keeping them as pets.

“The risk has already been rated as extreme by an expert committee,” Dr Booth said. “It’s crazy to allow that risk. How can I put that more strongly?”

Squirrels are defined as a species of “high pest potential” by the Non-Indigenous Animals Act. The government’s National Vertebrate Pests Committee lists northern palm squirrels as an “extreme threat”.

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8 Comments

Filed under Pet shops

8 responses to “Squirrels on sale: trendy pets or just a little nuts

  1. companionanimalnews

    This is just madness. How long will it be before Shelters and Pounds start receiving dumped squirrels? Are they equipped to handle them? don’t they have enough to do already?How long will will it before they get dumped in bush along with the rabbits and guinea pigs by people who no longer want them?
    Squirrels are territorial roaming animals – they should not be held in small cages.

    The pet shop cited is owned by PIAA Director Bob Croucher,who continously promotes sale of animals in pet shops and opposes any attempt to regulate the pet industry. His email is bobcroucher@petnews.com.au
    Let him know what you think.

    Also the public need to understand that there are attempts under way behind the scenes to introduce Australian native animals as household pets….

  2. What Next

    Yet another example of Humans “Using and Abusing” Animals for Profit! I live in hope that one day we wake up to ourseleves and choose not to see animals as a Fashion Accessory.

    Have we all forgotten all the impacts introduced species have had in this Country? eg Rabbits and Cane Toad….. just I believe these introductions seemed like a good idea at the time…Hmmm hasn’t history proved differently.

    What’s Next the Folk Law myth comes to reality we will have Kangaroos in our backyards!

    Oh aren’t Possums Austrlia’s vesion of squirrel

  3. Jan Baker

    I am not surprised, just another money making business…..they have exploited the dogs now onto something new….squirrels!! I just hope the idiots that buy them can run faster than 15 km/h….just how many are going to get away from their idot owners…..they are only another species of animals & to the inhumane people they couldn’t care less……shut these places down before they get a hold on the pet shops…..

  4. companionanimalnews

    Message from Heather Neil, CEO RSPCA Australia:

    As we understand it, these squirrels are being bred in Australia and so can legally be sold – this doesn’t mean that the RSPCA likes this. I suggest you talk to the person responsible for the Non-indigenous Animals Act in NSW , Richard Carter,

    Richard.carter@industry.nsw.gov.au,

    and State MPs where these animals are being sold etc. – it is only if the wider community raises their concerns with politicians responsible for legislation will anything be done.

    Heather Neil
    Chief Executive Officer
    RSPCA Australia

  5. Baker

    These animals are cute to the max, I always wanted on when I was living in Canada, now I can

  6. people shouldn’t just assume they are an ‘accessory’, some people might generally want them as a pet to take care of, love and train! As Company or so forth. It’s not wrong to sell them as pets, its wrong to sell them to the WRONG people and just care about money,but i really don’t see this as an issue. Its not like squirrel’s will take anything in the foodchain or really effect our native wildlife.. unlike goats or cane toads!

  7. eamon

    i have one. she came up to me and is soo sweet. i got her as a baby cause something happend to her mom. now im the tree. people should be more open mined about things people have love for animals. and it should be there right to take care of them. just like unwanted kids. you dont see anybody bitching about that do you.!!!!

    • companionanimalnews

      Eamon – you have a very valid point. I don’t think anyone would say it’s wrong to give a homeless animal in need a home – whether a cat, dog, or squirrel. We encourage that! The issue is the pet industry breeding these animals for sale and encouraging people to buy them – that is an entirely different matter with all it’s accompanying issues – created by those people (not all of course) who will end up abandoning it when the going gets too hard or circumstances change.

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