27 'dangerous wild animals' kept as pets in Suffolk
A survey has shown that 27 dangerous wild animals are being kept as pets in Suffolk.
The survey by international wildlife charity Born Free shows there at least 15 wild cats including servals, caracals, jungle cats and bobcats, as well as 11 wild boars and one dromedary camel residing in the county.
Under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, anyone in Britain can keep such creatures as long as they obtain a licence from their local authority.
The licensing process requires the applicant to demonstrate that their animals will be properly contained so as to prevent escape and protect the public.
Exotic vet Catherine Thomas, from Suffolk believes that people keep the exotic animals as pets because they are interesting.
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She said: “They are amazing animals and we get to see some of the amazing things they can do.
“The way they have evolved makes them pretty amazing creatures, so, I can understand why people are interested in them and want to experience that.”
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But Born Free is calling on the government to immediately review the law and put a stop to some of the world’s most remarkable, but often deadly, creatures being kept as pets.
Dr Mark Jones, veterinarian and Born Free’s head of policy, said the charity has been collating and analysing the Dangerous Wild Animals data for over 20 years.
He added: “Since the millennium the wild animal welfare and conservation charity has seen a dramatic increase in the number of exotic pets in private ownership, including a 94% increase in the number of venomous snakes, 57% increase in wild cats, 198% increase in crocodilians and over a 2,000% increase in scorpions.
“However, these figures are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg. They only record those animals being kept and registered with a Dangerous Wild Animal licence.
“Born Free believes that many additional dangerous wild animals are being kept without a licence.”
The charity is also concerned that the Dangerous Wild Animal Act has not been substantially reviewed for more than 40 years.
Exotic animal owner Carol Smith, part of the UK Pouchies group offering advice to rat owners, has seven African Gambian pouched rats herself.
She said: “I started off by keeping fancy rats at least 20 to 30 years ago.
“They are so intelligent they are really really smart. They can pick up things very quickly.”