Clifford Warwick PGDip(MedSci) CBiol CSci EurProBiol FRSB
Biologist & Medical Scientist
Think about it: raising a human baby comes with all the support of experienced grandparents, friends, and a highly skilled health service – complete with qualified and regulated advice on everything from getting pregnant to seeing one’s offspring into the wider world. On top of that, nurturing a child is innate – nature’s education perfectly tailored. Does that mean everything will be easy and go well? Certainly not! But when things go wrong, the best of back-ups are on tap to help, whatever the problem.
For companion animals, such as dogs and cats, things are not as simple, but at least expert assistance on everything from diet to major surgery is accessible from your well-trained high street vet. However, when it comes to exotic, wild, pets, the story changes – a lot. Few specialists in exotic animal medicine are out there, and rarely close to hand. Furthermore, exotic pet husbandry and medicine knowledge lags substantially behind that for dogs and cats. Often people are misled by pet sellers and promoters into believing that many animals are ‘easy to keep’ and, all too commonly, bringing an exotic pet into the home marks an impending welfare tragedy and forthcoming regret – and occasionally exotic human infections.
In 2014, a new scientific system was developed by 18 biologists and vets to score any animal according to how easy or difficult it may be to keep as a pet – ‘EMODE’ (Easy, Moderate, Difficult or Extreme). A free EMODE Pet Score website (https://emodepetscore.com) has recently been launched, which is aimed at steering people towards better informed decision-making. EMODE Pet Score already lists many pre-scored species and breeds so that guidance is merely a click or two away, and more examples are being regularly added. Where species are not yet listed, users can answer several key questions and the algorithm will quickly do the calculation. Even finding the answers for the key questions may be enough to alert people to hidden challenges in keeping an animal in the home.
It is hoped that EMODE Pet Score will be the first place people visit for guidance on getting a pet, and help put the brakes on pet purchase mistakes.