THE Chief Inspector of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has called for more regulation on the importation of exotic animals after a pet sable in Cork was found to potentially have rabies.
The sable, which is a species of marten, was displaying "atypical behaviour" and was euthanised after an investigation could not rule out rabies.
There has been no rabies in Ireland for more than 100 years.
An 8km surveillance zone remains in place around Riverstick after the test results confirmed the sable had been exposed to lyssavirus, more commonly known as rabies.
"The importation of exotic animals is more common than we realise. There was good reason for the Department of Agriculture to be concerned if they acted in this way," chief inspector Conor Dowling told The Echo.
"This shows that even when an animal is imported legally, risks and health complications can still arise when moving animals from one country to another.
"The questions is why would you want to import such an animal into Ireland?"
Mr Dowling says the ISPCA has been calling for stricter legislation on the importation of exotic animals for years.
"There needs to be more regulation. We have been calling for this for over 20 years now.
"In Britain and in Northern Ireland, they have dangerous wild animal legislation. We have no equivalent.
"While there are restrictions on their importation, once the animals are accepted into Ireland there is no oversight on how they are kept and whether they are living in a suitable environment."
Mr Dowling has come across people keeping arctic foxes, boa contractors, caiman alligators and even primates as pets in Ireland.
"A whitelist of animals which can be kept and brought into Ireland should be introduced."
The Department of Agriculture said that their investigations found the animal was kept securely confined in a private premise in County Cork.
"Initial screening tests by the Department’s Central Veterinary Laboratory and the European Reference Laboratory (EURL) in France were negative.
"On 23 January, following further confirmatory test methods, the EURL reported evidence of low levels of lyssavirus genetic material in brain samples from the animal. Based on these EURL results, rabies cannot be ruled out in the sable."
Owners of dogs, cats and ferrets have been advised to monitor the health and behaviour of their animals and report any abnormal or unusual behaviour to the department.