A charity wants the government to change a law that allows Brits to keep exotic animals as pets.

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The lid has been lifted on the secret world of keeping wild animals as pets, thanks to new data.

Bush vipers, cheetahs, a caiman and even a lynx were found to be living around the UK

The data comes from wildlife charity Born Free and reveals the full extent of exotic animal ownership in the UK.

Their new data paints a disturbing picture of more than 2,700 dangerous wild animals legally residing in British homes under licences permitted by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

The menagerie of wild pets includes more than 200 wild cats, 250 primates and 400 venomous snakes.

The complete regional data, collected from local authorities is available on Born Free’s Dangerous Wild Animals Map.

Anyone can now log on to this new data and see if a dangerous wild animal, such as a lion, alligator or venomous reptile, resides near them.

Almost 3,000 wild animals are kept as pets in the UK

The charity says that the almost 3,000 wild creatures classified as dangerous under UK law, being kept as ‘pets’ across Britain, is “of great concern.”

Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free, expresses disbelief at the persistence of this practice: “It is unbelievable that, in this day and age, so many dangerous animals continue to be legally kept in people’s homes.”

Dr Jones adds that keeping wild animals as exotic pets puts owners and the wider public at risk of injury or disease and also results in profound animal suffering.

Wild creatures have complex needs

The dangers posed by keeping untamed creatures are incredibly worrying. Unlike domesticated animals – which have been bred over generations to live alongside humans – wild creatures have complex needs which cannot adequately be met by life in captivity.

Born Free’s main concerns are that keeping wild animals as pets can cause them to suffer physically and psychologically, and their welfare is compromised by being kept as a family ‘pet’.

Moreover, the surge in demand for exotic ‘pets’ exacerbates the pressure on already-threatened wild populations.

Chris Lewis, Born Free’s Captivity Research Officer, says, “The Dangerous Wild Animals Act was intended to make the keeping of such animals categorised as “dangerous” a wholly exceptional circumstance. However, Born Free’s ongoing research paints a very different picture.”

Lewis adds that the public will “rightly be shocked to learn of so many animals being kept by private keepers.”

What is the risk to the public?

Born Free also believes that the risks extend beyond the confines of private property. These animals pose a significant threat to public safety with their innate wild instincts.

Confined in unnatural environments, they remain ticking time bombs of unpredictable behaviour. There’s also the looming spectre of zoonotic diseases, potential transmission vectors from animal to human. It has been speculated that Covid-19 originated with animals before being transferred to people.

The charity’s research also uncovers several gaps in regulation. Some councils are oblivious to the exact species being kept despite legal requirements mandating disclosure.

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They also highlight several troubling trends, including the increased allure of owning exotic cats, particularly hybrids. Ownership of these wild cats is on the rise, with Born Free stating that the ‘current craze appears to be driven by their presence in posts across social media.’

Lemur ownership has also seen an uptick, from 151 to 175 since 2020, highlighting the pressing need for stricter regulations on primate ownership.

Should the Dangerous Wild Animals Act be revised?

As a result of its findings, Born Free is calling on the UK government to review the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA).

This Act was initially enacted in 1976 and amended in 2010. Anyone wishing to keep an animal covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act has to apply to their local authority for a licence. Individuals who keep wild animals must also do so in a way that minimises the risk to the public.

Since 2005, Born Free has been at the forefront of the campaign to protect the welfare of exotic animals kept as “pets.” Yet, their latest findings underscore the need for more existing legislation.

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The charity claims the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 is woefully outdated, failing to keep pace with evolving scientific understanding and societal norms.

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By admin