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Does a lion live next door?

Nearly 5k dangerous wild animals – from lions and leopards to bears and crocodiles – are being kept at private UK addresses
Does a lion live next door?

From deadly snakes and crocodiles to lions, leopards, bears and even an elephant, nearly 5,000 dangerous wild animals are being privately kept right here in the UK.

International wildlife charity Born Free is petitioning the UK government to review the law immediately, and put a stop to some of the world’s most remarkable but often deadly creatures being in kept in unsuitable environments.

Confining these animals in domestic settings is not only cruel, says Born Free, but can also pose a significant risk to human life.

Lions and tigers and bears…

An estimated 11 million people own a pet in the UK. The Born Free survey – which asked every local council across England, Scotland and Wales which dangerous wild animals are currently licenced – revealed that a total of 710 private addresses are hosting dangerous animals.

These include:

  • Almost 300 wild cats, such as servals and lynx, including over 40 big cats – lions, tigers, leopards, pumas and cheetahs
  • Over 80 venomous lizards, such as the Mexican beaded lizard and gila monster
  • Over 130 lemurs and 100 monkeys, particularly ring tailed lemurs and capuchins
  • Over 75 crocodilians, mostly Caimans
  • Over 700 venomous snakes, including puff adders, black mambas and diamondback rattlesnakes

In Wales there is an elephant licensed to be privately kept, and in England a giraffe, as well as 14 wolves, three bears, nine leopards, three cheetahs, nine lions and nine tigers. Other species being kept as pets or in private collections in the UK included zebras, camels, fossas, antelope, and otters.

‘The keeping of wild animals as pets is a growing concern. The widespread use of the Internet has made it easier than ever to ‘order’ or purchase a wild animal without clarification as to where it has come from or how it should be cared for. Wild animals are particularly vulnerable to welfare problems because of their complex social, physical and behavioural needs. They require specific housing conditions, dietary requirements, and furthermore, the safety risk these animals pose to their owners and the wider public should not be ignored.’

Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity for Born Free

Wild animal licences

Currently, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, anyone in Britain can keep a dangerous wild animal as long as they obtain a licence from their local authority. The licence application merely requires them to demonstrate that their animals are properly contained and not at risk of escape.

Born Free is calling for a review of the legislation covering the keeping of wild animals as pets, including the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, and calling for more restrictions on the ownership of dangerous wild animals. This includes the need for consideration of large constrictor snakes, which do not currently require a licence to be kept as pets.

Just last year a man in Hampshire was killed by his 8ft African Rock python, Tiny. In a separate incident, police found an illegally kept 4ft Caiman crocodile and 16 snakes at a property in Essex, nine of which were classed as dangerous. They included cobras, copperheads and pythons. Seven other snakes were found dead in the house as a result of the poor conditions in which they had been kept.

While the survey includes those establishments and companies that require a Dangerous Wild Animals licence to rescue animals, for animals such as wild boar and ostriches on farms, and those who use animals for TV and film, it is still understood that a large proportion of the dangerous wild animals are being kept as personal pets.

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