U.K. may loosen restrictions on "pet" tigers, lions

Lions and tigers kept as pets in danger of mistreatment, claims RSPCALions, snakes and other exotic pets will be at greater danger of mistreatment under Government plans to relax the rules around keeping dangerous wild animals, the Royal Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals warned.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 3:52PM BST 06 May 2009

A recent survey found 267 dangerous snakes, 36 camels, 36 scorpions, 30 crocodilians (including alligators), 23 big cats (including a snow leopard) and one zebra were being kept in just 87 local authorities – suggesting hundreds more wild animals are kept as pets across Britain.

Local authorities are in charge of ensuring the animals are not in danger of harming the general public by escaping and are well looked after.

However the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants to reduce the burden of red tape on both the private owners of animals and the councils forced to carry out the inspections.

A consultation proposed changing the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 so that owners would only need to get a licence every two years and would have their premises inspected less often.

But the Royal Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) fear watering down the rules will result in the animals being less well cared for. The rules have already been relaxed so that emus, sloths, raccoons and squirrels were removed from the list for which a licence is required.

Ros Clubb, a scientific officer at the RSPCA’s Wildlife Department, said any further relaxation could put animals in danger.

“We don’t think the legislative framework is strong enough anyway and we’re not really happy with any kind of weakening of it,” she said. “It wasn’t exactly great protection in the first place and wearing is even further will have a detrimental effect on the welfare of these animals.”

Defra said the Act has not been updated since the 70s when it became fashionable to keep exotic pets and local authorities needed more flexibility in order to keep down costs.

A spokesman said: “The government has consulted on proposed changes to the laws on private keeping of dangerous wild animals to help to cut the amount of red tape for local authorities and animal keepers, increase support for and compliance with the legislation and maintain public safety and animal welfare.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5284861/Lions-and-tigers-kept-as-pets-in-danger-of-mistreatment-claims-RSPCA.html

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org

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