What is Don't Let It Loose?

Why Be Concerned

Invasive species are plants and animals that are not native to Canada and can have serious impacts on our environment, economy and human health. Some of Canada’s most harmful invasive species came from the intentional, improper disposal of aquariums and terrariums into our waters and other outdoor spaces.

Releasing pets into the wild is inhumane, dangerous and illegal

Some people believe that when they don’t want their pets any longer, the best thing to do for the animal is to release it into the wild. However, this is cruel, dangerous to the environment, and illegal.

Pet and Aquarium owners

Water gardeners, aquarium and terrarium owners can select from a variety of aquatic plants, invertebrates, reptiles and fish. Unfortunately, some of these exotic species have the potential to become invasive. When no longer wanted, pets are sometimes let loose into nearby water or woods, and plants are dumped into ditches and ponds, where they can have huge ecological and environmental impacts.

It is important for pet owners to understand the lifespan and long term needs of all pets before considering purchase or adoption. If you still end up with a bully in your aquarium or a Red-eared slider turtle that has outgrown its tank, be aware that letting plants and animals loose into the wild is not an appropriate solution.


Most pets don’t survive in the wild – some die by being killed by predators or hit by cars, and others die of starvation. It is inhumane to release an animal into an environment it is not accustomed to. Releasing a pet into an unsuitable habitat is also considered animal cruelty and charges can be laid.

Environmental Damage

Some exotic pets are able to thrive and reproduce in their new environment. Once established, they can take over their new habitat, reducing native populations and changing the structure of the ecosystem. Even if your aquatic pet is known to be native to the local environment, it should still never be released, as it may introduce diseases or invasive parasites into the local ecosystem.

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Don't Let It Loose for Aquatic Invasive Species

Many animals and plants sold for aquariums and water gardens are not native to Canada. Some owners think that releasing a pet that becomes too large, too difficult to care for or that they no longer want is the most compassionate thing to do. This is not true.

Domestic pets generally do not have the survival skills to live beyond their tank or pond. They can starve to death or may be eaten by predators in the wild. In some cases, they may survive, reproduce and spread, becoming invasive to the area they have been released in. Even if your pet is native to the local environment, it should never be released, as it may be carrying diseases or parasites.


Goldfish have been introduced worldwide. They are established in locations throughout all provinces of Canada and all of the United States except Alaska.




Fish aren’t the only problem! Small pieces or seeds from water garden plants can also thrive and cause an invasion if released. Invasive plants, such as flowering rush and pale yellow iris have been introduced throughout Canada.


What you should do instead

Be a responsible pet and plant owner and care.

  • Ask a friend or someone else if they can adopt your pet or plant. Using social media, community lists or online classified ads may be helpful.
  • Contact the pet store or place where you purchased your pet to see if they can take it back.

Research other places that may be able to provide a new home for your pet, such as animal shelters, animal sanctuaries, humane societies, science centres, zoos, aquariums, schools or community organizations.

  • Research pets and plants before buying or adopting. Know how large they will get, how long they will live and how much work they entail. Make sure you are willing to fully commit to their lifetime of care. If you see potential issues in caring for them long-term, consider an alternative.
  • Know what pets and plants are legal to own. Only buy them from reputable retailers whose species are properly labelled, especially when buying online.
  • When gardening, select plants that are native to your region. They will be more likely to thrive and are better for local bees, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
  • Ensure water gardens and ponds are contained with no chance of any species or water escaping into other water systems.
  • Ensure any water released from aquariums, ponds or water gardens is done on land and away from household drains, sewers or other bodies of water.
  • As a last resort, contact a qualified veterinarian to euthanize your pet in a humane manner. This is far kinder than letting it starve to death in the wild or destroy the homes of native species.
  • If your pet dies, don’t flush it down the toilet. Bury it instead so it can’t spread diseases.
  • Dry and freeze plants in tightly sealed bags before throwing them in the trash. Do not compost them.
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The CCIS has developed new Don’t Let It Loose logo with the help of our Chapter Network, that addresses both aquatic and terrestrial species, as well as a set of branding guidelines. These guidelines

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