The international vertebrate pet trade network and insights from US imports of exotic pets.
The international trade in exotic vertebrate pets provides key social and economic benefits but also drives associated ecological, ethical, and human health impacts. However, despite its clear importance, we currently lack a full understanding of the structure of the pet trade, hampering efforts to optimize its benefits while mitigating its negative effects. In the present article, we represent and review the structure of the pet trade as a network composed of different market actors (nodes) and trade flows (links). We identify key data gaps in this network that, if filled, would enable network analyses to pinpoint targets for management. As a case study of how data-informed networks can realize this goal, we quantified spatial and temporal patterns in pets imported to the United States. Our framework and case study illustrate how network approaches can help to inform and manage the effects of the growing demand for exotic pets.