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Love bites – Do venomous arachnids make safe pets?

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posted on 23.11.2020, 02:55 by Tobias J. Hauke, Volker Herzig
With a global estimate of tens of thousands of arachnid enthusiasts, spiders and scorpions are gaining increasing popularity as pets in industrialised countries in Europe, Northern America and Asia. As most spiders and all scorpions are venomous and due to their mostly negative image in the public media, several governments are already considering introducing legislation to regulate the domestic care of potentially dangerous captive animals. We aimed to investigate the circumstances and effects of exposure to arachnids kept in captivity. Thus, we collected and analysed data from 354 reported bites and stings attributed to pet arachnids. Our data revealed that on average there were less than 20 recorded envenomations per year with ~90% preventable by due care. We also categorized the severity of the resulting symptoms and found that the vast majority of symptoms were either local (60.7%) or moderate (32.8%), 5.4% were asymptomatic, only 1.1% were severe and no fatalities were recorded. Based on our database of bite and sting reports, we performed a risk assessment for arachnid pet ownership and concluded that with the proper care arachnids can be safely kept as pets and pose a lower risk than many other recreational activities.

Funding

Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (FT190100482) to V.H.

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