Leopard cat one of several 'dangerous wild animals' kept in Peterborough
A leopard cat is one of a number of 'dangerous wild animals' being kept privately in Peterborough, according to the Born Free Foundation.
Whilst an estimated 11 million people own a pet in the UK, Born Free’s research asked every local council across England, Scotland and Wales which dangerous wild animals are currently licenced to be kept in private hands - including one leopard cat (which a species of cat closely related to the leopard, but smaller) and 30 hybrid wild cats in Peterborough.
In Fenland there are three Saki monkeys, while in Huntingdonshire there are three hybrid wild cats and one serval.
Shockingly, the entire survey revealed that a total of 218 private addresses are hosting dangerous wild animals across Britain. These include:
At least 250 wild cats, such as servals and lynx and including 50 big cats - lions, tigers, leopards, pumas and cheetahs
Over 100 venomous lizards, such as Mexican beaded lizards and Gila monsters
At least 240 primates, particularly ring tailed lemurs and capuchins
Over 85 crocodilians, mostly caimans
At least 650 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, 3 bears, 13 leopards, 3 cheetahs, 9 lions and 9 tigers. Other species being kept as pets or in private collections in the UK included zebras, camels, fossas, antelope, and otters.
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. Moreover, it is thought that many more wild animals are being kept unlicensed and illegally across the country.
Confining wild animals in domestic settings is not only cruel says Born Free, but can also pose a significant risk to human life.
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 and copperhead vipers. Seven other snakes were found dead in the house as a result of the poor conditions in which they had been kept.
Whilst 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.
Dr Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity for Born Free, said:
“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.”