The annual trade in exotic vertebrates as pets is a multi‐billion‐dollar global business. Thousands of species, and tens of millions of individual animals, are shipped both internationally and within countries to satisfy this demand. Most research on the exotic pet trade has focused on its contribution to native biodiversity loss and disease spread. Here, we synthesize information across taxa and research disciplines to document the exotic pet trade's contribution to vertebrate biological invasions. We show recent and substantial worldwide growth in the number of non‐native animal populations introduced via this invasion pathway, which demonstrates a strong potential to increase the number of invasive animals in the future. Key to addressing the invasion threat of exotic pets is learning more about the socioeconomic forces that drive the massive growth in the exotic pet market and the socioecological factors that underlie pet release by owners. These factors likely vary according to cultural pet‐keeping traditions across regions and whether purchases were legal or illegal. These gaps in our understanding of the exotic pet trade must be addressed in order to implement effective policy solutions.