The GWCT applauds the recent call from the RSPCA for a ban on the sale of ‘raccoon dogs’ in the UK.
The raccoon dog – so-called because of its raccoon-like markings, but really a small fox – is native to East Asia, where it is known as the tanuki. Raccoon dogs were introduced to western Russia, the Ukraine and the Baltic states during the early Soviet era. Once established there, they proved highly invasive, spreading into Finland, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and Denmark.
The creation of a cordon sanitaire to prevent them colonising Sweden and Norway has so far been successful, but is an expensive commitment and highly dependent on hunting with dogs. If established in the UK, raccoon dogs would likely prove impossible to eradicate. The RSPCA has confirmed that some have escaped into the wild in the UK, although these are not thought to have established.
“Racoon dogs have a very high reproductive rate, and reach astonishingly high densities,” comments Dr Jonathan Reynolds of the GWCT. “They have no need to prove their credentials as an invasive predator. They would have a devastating impact on the UK’s wildlife, much of which is already in a poor way. They would also provide a reservoir for rabies and fox tapeworms, should either of these get to the UK.”
He continues; “The RSPCA is right to voice its concerns over this animal. Cute though they are, they are not suitable pets. It seems inevitable that if they continue to be sold, some will end up escaping or being released.”
In the UK, it is already an offence to release raccoon dogs or allow them to escape because they are not native to the UK, but the species is not on Defra’s recent list of species whose sale is proscribed.
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