Bad for Animals, Dangerous for People? The Return of Exotic Pets

Dear Friends of Wildlife

You may have seen the rather flippant media pieces regarding changes to the legislation governing the private ownership of dangerous wild animals. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (DWA) places restrictions on certain species thought to pose an injury risk to humans, requiring veterinary inspections, minimum safety standards a License from the Local Authority. DEFRA (Department of Food and Rural Affairs) have now seen fit to remove a number of species from their restricted list. So, anyone can now own a squirrel monkey, a coati mundi, sloth or a raccoon, among many other animal species. The justification for this decision seems to be that when this issue was put out to public consultation several years ago, little or no reported evidence was produced of injuries to people from these animals.

Sloth © Chris Draper

Naturally, in 2004 Born Free submitted information to DEFRA on the issue of Dangerous Wild Animals Act to try and prevent any weakening of the regulations. Subsequent incidents of human injury have been reported for several of the species that have now been removed from the list (e.g. coatis), yet as far as we know these cases did not influence the decision to remove these species.
Of course, what I suspect really happened was that existing legal owners of these animals (those with a DWA License) decided not to report any injuries from their “pets”, while illegal owners did not report injuries from their illegally-held animals for fear of tighter restrictions or more serious consequences like confiscation. The absence of evidence is, in my view, most certainly not evidence of absence of risk.
Born Free has been in touch with numerous experts on the care of wild animals around the world, and many people have raised concerns about the private keeping of the species being removed from the list, both in terms of the risk to humans and the animals’ welfare.  For more information on exotic pets, please click here.
Around the world, and in the USA in particular (where private ownership of wild animals is a huge problem), many laws are being introduced to restrict the private keeping of wild animals. Why is the UK bucking this sensible trend? These animals are not pets. The DWA as previously configured was an effective way of restricting widespread demand for unsuitable ‘pet’ species. Sadly, we can expect these animals’ welfare to suffer and potential for human injury to increase.

Blogging off


One Response to “Bad for Animals, Dangerous for People? The Return of Exotic Pets”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    I feel that this sort of easing of Dangerous Wild Animals Act will only fuel the exotic “pet” trade, leading to wild animals being taken out of their natural habitat, amongst other things.

    Who will monitor where these animals have come from? Who will monitor these animals whilst they are somebody’s pet? Who will monitor what infections they are prone to ? Who will monitor the infections they can bring to species here ?

    Surely people can’t think that these WILD animals will have the same quality of life as a pet as they would in their natural environment !!!!

    I’m confused ! How is a wild animal that was once thought to be danderous suddenly ok to have as a pet ?

    In the UK don’t we have enough animal suffering with all the dogs and cats that are abandoned, mistreated, etc…each year without adding to the list?

    What does the future hold for these “exotic pets” I wonder? We will probably have reports on TV of them being abandoned, mistreated etc…when their owners become bored with them. How long before they are being stolen and re-sold because they are worth money ? How long before these animals are in a breeding programme simply to fuel our demand for having an exotic pet, or something more exotic than our neighbours !! Look at how we have been breeding cats and dogs to pamper our selfish needs to have something different – who’s thinking about the effect its all having on the animals?

    What ever the species, I think the animal will ultimately lose out. It becomes a pet – it has lost its freedom. If it injures a person – it’s condemned as a dangerous animal.

    Let’s keep wildlife in the wild .