A new Disney Pixar film is a cause for celebration for most of us but animal charity the RSPCA is bracing itself for a flood of unwanted pets as Finding Dory hits our screens.
With the Finding Nemo sequel due to be released next month, the charity is worried that the underwater-set film is likely to drive up interest in pet fish.
And it warns that with such impulse buying comes an increase in pets that are quickly forgotten about or dumped.
Alexandra Jones, RSPCA exotics scientific officer, said: “Many people bought clown fish after the release of Finding Nemo in 2003, which led to a large number of fish being neglected or dumped when they grew too large or were more difficult to look after than expected.
"We are bracing ourselves for a similar trend once again.
“Fish can be challenging to keep. They can't show their feelings as clearly as mammals do and meeting their complex biological, environmental and behavioural needs takes a great deal of preparation, investment, time and care.
"Sadly many owners who buy exotic pets on impulse after seeing a film or TV show don’t find out how to care for the animals first.
"When they then realise how much space and care the animal requires they can lose interest, or feel unable to care for them anymore. As a result exotic pets are often abandoned, given up to animal rescue centres or released into the wild.”
Ahead of the film’s release, the RSPCA has put together advice on keeping fish. For more information, click here.
The effect of films in influencing pet trends is not a new one and has covered everything from dogs to reptiles. Here we take a look at some of the biggest movie-driven fads.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: turtles.
The heroes in a half-shell were more villains for animal welfare campaigners after the 1990 movie about them saw spike in demand for turtles. Sadly for the reptiles when young owners realised they couldn’t thrown a flying kick, crack a joke and didn’t enjoy pizza they soon fell out of favour. Some were handed over to animal shelters but, according to animal charities, some were simply dumped or even flushed down the toilet.
2. Harry Potter: owls.
As with anything Potter-related, what the boy wizard had kids everywhere wanted. While they had to make do with plastic broomsticks and not-at-all-magic magic wands they could, unfortunately, get their very own living version of Hedwig. The high level of special care, housing and training that owls require has been blamed for a spike in the numbers being dumped. At the height of Pottermania a specialist sanctuary was even set up on the Isle of Wight to care for the soaring numbers being abandoned and another sanctuary in Wales reported a tripling of the number of birds it had taken in.
3. 101 Dalmatians: dogs.
Not much is known about the Disney animation’s impact on its first release in 1961 but animal welfare charities reported that after its re-releases in 1985 and 1991 the market was flooded with Dalmatians by unscrupulous puppy farmers cashing in on the breed’s sudden prominence. A similar situation was seen when the live-action remake came out in 1996 and charities saw a corresponding surge in the number of dogs given up when the high-maintenance animals became too much for owners to handle.
4. Ratatouille: rats.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, Pixar’s 2007 story of a rat that happens to be a culinary genius has been credited with driving up demand for the rodents as pets. Pets at Home reported a 50% surge in sales of rats in the first month following the film’s release.
5. G-Force: guinea pigs.
Another one to file under “doesn’t do what they do in the movies”. The CGI-heavy 2009 offering from Disney featured a gang of secret agent rodents who fought, raced and wise cracked their way through a fur-raising adventure. Cue a huge demand from young viewers to have a gerbil of their own and the ensuing disappointment when all the pet did was eat and sleep. In the months after the film’s release one East Sussex animal shelter reported a 30 per cent rise in the number of gerbils being handed in to it.