been considerable growth in the demand for and ownership of exotic and caged pets (Doolen, 1996; http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id2=212880). The demand is putting increasing pressure on veterinarians who treat exotic and caged animals to keep up with the highly species-specific needs of their patients.
Characterization of the zoonotic pathogens capable of being carried by exotic species and also those pathogens that may be transmitted to domestic and wild animal populations.
Improved methods of diagnosis and treatment of exotic animal diseases, especially in regards to safe and effective anesthetic and analgesic protocols.
Determination of appropriate husbandry requirements for many exotic species.
Given the increasing number and diversity of exotic pets, veterinary research is necessary to identify important infectious diseases that may pose a risk of transmission to humans and domestic and wild animals. Research on the behavioral, husbandry, and medical needs of exotic pets is also necessary to enhance their quality of life and to contribute to the comparative understanding of diseases in other species.
This chapter illustrates that veterinary research is a diverse enterprise that involves many disciplines and species and has a substantial effect on human health and the economy. In many fields, veterinary research is about characterizing the health implications of changing relationships and the boundaries between species and their environments. The compelling but difficult question is, What is the most important? Although research priorities have been outlined in each area, the different areas of veterinary research were not prioritized against each other. Clearly, issues related to homeland security (such as biosecurity) and food safety stand out because of the potential for catastrophic effects on human and animal health. However, problems often arise from fields that have been overlooked (for example, exotic pets) and many important advances come from fields that may not be recognized by some as priorities so that a balanced approach to support research in the above areas must be sought. The key question regarding research priorities is not what topic should be investigated first, but how a strong and flexible national capacity for veterinary research can be built and maintained to maximize the contribution of veterinary research to the health and welfare of animals and people.