By Miles Godfrey
More than 200 dangerous wild animals including bison, venemous snakes and a crocodile are being kept as alternative pets to dogs, cats and goldfish in Sussex.
There are nine bison, two margay wild cats, at least 140 wild boar, 20 venomous snakes and a Caiman crocodile among the dangerous animals in the county, according to a survey by The Argus.
The figures reveal there are also seven monkeys, 13 lemurs, a camel, four ostriches and two red pandas.
The Argus got the information by approaching Sussex’s 13 local authorities to find out how many dangerous wild animals were being kept by licensed private keepers.
The figures do not include zoo animals or illegally kept animals.
Experts from the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) believe there has been an explosion in the number of dangerous animals being kept isince 1990 but says many of them are “farmed” such as bison and boar.
A herd of bison living in Burpham are among the most visible examples in Sussex.
The animals live near to the George and Dragon pub in Main Street and are owned by a farmer.
The landlord of the pub said: “They are very friendly creatures in fact and quite often they are right up against the fence by the road. I’ve never seen them being vicious or ferocious.”
There are an estimated 15,000 animals living in the country which need licensing under the Dangerous Animals Act 1976.
These include 2,000 licensed ostriches in the UK, along with 500 monkeys, 250 poisonous snakes and 150 big cats.
Jenny Wells, manager of Patcham RSPCA said owners of dangerous animals generally took care of their pets.
She said: “We do get presented from time to time with the odd dangerous dog that isn’t very friendly but we don’t have a major problem with dangerous animals.
“Problems occur when owners keep their animals caged up for long times and then let them out. It’s not a good policy.”
The RSPCA send out inspectors from its head office to check on animals licensed under the act.
A spokesman said their owners are often more responsible than those who own regular pets.
He said: “We often find these people are very keen on animals and look after them extremely well. It is often a passion for them and as a result we don’t encounter too many problems.
“There is still an issue with dangerous dogs in this country although quite often it is hyped up.
“But in terms of unusual animals being kept, we would say as long as their conditions are suitable and they are well cared for then we are all for it.”
3:00pm Friday 16th February 2007