Tuesday, December 26, 2006 Twelve lions, 14 tigers and 50 leopards are being kept by licensed private owners, researchers studying Big Cats in Britain have said.
The 154 assorted non-domestic cats are owned privately, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
There were also almost 500 assorted monkeys and 2,000 ostriches in private ownership as well as more than 250 poisonous snakes and 50 members of the crocodile family.
More than 300 American Bison are also grazing in our countryside – as well as more than 6,000 wild boar.
The Big Cats in Britain (BCIB) research group said it approached 408 local authorities to discover how many of the wild animals were being kept by licensed private keepers. The figures do not include zoo animals.
Under the Dangerous Wild Animal Act 1976, private owners of all animals that are legally deemed to be dangerous are required to annually buy a licence from their local authority.
The authority inspects the owner’s premises, setting standards and confirming that the owner carries third party liability insurance for the animal.
Some smaller cats such as servals and leopard cats are being kept to hybrid with domestic cats to produce the “designer pet” varieties, researchers said.
Scientific adviser to the BCIB Chris Moiser said it was a “pleasant surprise” to see how many people went to such lengths to keep their animals properly and lawfully.
Mark Fraser, founder of the BCIB Research Group, said: “It is not the responsible legal owners that ‘lose’ their animals, but those that are kept illegally with ill regard and little thought to their welfare.
“More and more exotic animals are being seen in the British countryside today, making it an interesting place to be.
“In December of 2006 the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in Northern Ireland, and it will be interesting to see what effect this has.”
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