Ulster is tamed with new pet laws
Legislation ends 30-year loophole that allowed people to keep wild and exotic animals
By David Gordon
20 October 2006
Long-awaited legislation on the keeping of dangerous wild animals is due to take effect in Northern Ireland next month, Government officials have revealed.
The move will finally bring the province into line with a law passed three decades ago for other parts of the UK.
The 30-year-old loophole meant that a licence has been needed to keep a dog but not more dangerous and exotic creatures.
Animal welfare charity, the USPCA, has welcomed the forthcoming change as “long overdue”.
It has repeatedly had to deal with the fall-out from the anomaly.
In the past 12 months alone, the organisation has seized a consignment of baby crocodiles, snakes and other reptiles in Newry and a tamarin monkey from a house in Craigavon.
There have also been a number of cases over the years of big cats and wolves being kept as pets.
USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott said: “The law change for Northern Ireland was passed in 2004 but the legislation has still to be brought into effect by being enabled.
“It’s certainly long overdue.
“It will mean people will have to prove competence to keep dangerous animals.
“This means suitability in terms of issues like insurance, fencing, licensing and veterinary care.
“It’s important for the protection of the public and to ensure the welfare of the animals,” Mr Philpott added.
The DoE confirmed the law change timetable in a statement to this newspaper.
It said: “Regarding The Dangerous Wild Animals (NI) Order 2004, the Department of Environment is working to have the Commencement Order and Fees Order in place by the end of November this year.
“This means that anyone having dangerous wild animals, with certain exemptions to include circuses, zoos and pet shops, will be subject to this order,” it added.
The USPCA was involved in high profile but unsuccessful big cat searches in north Antrim in 2003.
The charity believes that a puma and a panther were both released into the wild in July 2002.
They were thought to have been kept in a private collection