PetWatch website launches

Posted by Lauren Hertel on Saturday, June 4 2011


EcoHealth Alliance (formerly Wildlife Trust) has launched a new program called PetWatch, a first-of-its-kind mobile-friendly website that guides consumers to make informed decisions about exotic pets. Rooted in scientific research on global wildlife trade, PetWatch provides rankings for the Best, Fair and Worst choices of exotic pets for the well being of your family and the environment.

Switzer supported the development of PetWatch with a Collaborative Grant to Fellows Kate Smith (2004) and Myra Finkelstein (1998), who developed the project for EcoHealth Alliance. 

Other supporters included the Cestone Foundation, EcoHealth Alliance, Brown University, and individual scientists who volunteered their time to research and review the species ranked by the program.

As the press release about the launch states: "The program’s foremost goals are to protect natural resources, native wildlife, global biodiversity, and public health from non-native wildlife entering U.S. borders. Scientific experts from multi-disciplinary fields such as conservation biology, disease ecology, invasive species biology and veterinary medicine developed the Best, Fair and Worst choice pet rankings for over 50 exotic species. All of the rankings are presented on a first-of-its-kind, mobile-friendly website ( geared towards consumers to help provide insight and education surrounding exotic pet ownership for one’s family and home."

According to the release, "The scale of the global wildlife trade is extraordinary and the illegal portion of this trade is estimated at $20 billion per year – the second largest black market category next to narcotics."

The website allows consumers to browse animals by category (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians or fish) or to see the entire list of PetWatch rated animals.  Pets like the Betta (or Siamese Fighting Fish), the Cockatiel, and the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt all received "Best Choice" pet ratings.  The Squirrel Monkey, Burmese Python, and Bushbaby are rated as "Worst Choice" pets.

Animals were rated according to the following criteria:

  • Source Sustainability - Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?
  • Invasion Threat - Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?
  • Animal Welfare - Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?
  • Health Threat - Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

EcoHealth Alliance will be releasing an app for the iPhone and iPad this summer, according to the website.

You can view the Switzer Network News report about the project and read a summary of the Collaborative Grant.

Add comment

Log in to post comments


Thank you for your interest

Thank you for your interest in PetWatch. We modeled this project after the sustainable seafood cards to help inform the public about responsible choices when thinking about purchasing a pet. PetWatch is now a program of EcoHealth Alliance and they can assist you with the status of their website. In terms of classified ads, I think the problem (like most problems) is complicated. Certainly illegal pet trade via classified ads is a huge issue, yet responsible parties can help become part of the solution. The key is to be an aware consumer – ask questions about the animal you are interested in (where were they bred, were they wild-caught, etc.). The pet reports available at can help inform what types of questions are important to ask before purchasing a pet.

Spotlight on Leadership

Studying the role of infectious disease and perceptions of ecological change
2014 Fellow Andrea Adams’s dissertation research involves the study of disappearing frogs in Southern California. “One species, the foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) disappeared from the region during a short period of time in the mid-1960s to early 1970s,” Andrea explains. “One thing that can cause such rapid declines in amphibians is the pathogenic amphibian chytrid fungus. I study this fungus’s distribution and disease dynamics in different amphibian species in Southern California to see if it could have been a major contributing factor to the disappearance of the foothill yellow-legged frog in the region. To do this, I conduct molecular work in the laboratory, as well as field and museum work.”Read more >
Jisung Park: Making sense of climate costs
At a time when much attention is on rising sea levels and extreme weather events, Jisung Park eagerly took on the challenge of developing a greater understanding of the correlation between long-term economic vitality and rising temperatures due to global warming.Read more >

A vibrant community of environmental leaders