It is thought there are tens of thousands of exotic pets kept by private individuals in the UK. The range of species kept as pets has greatly increased over the past decades. In theory, anyone can keep any animal species, although certain restrictions may be imposed by legislation relating to endangered species and/or status as a threat to humans. For example, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 requires the licensing of any animal listed on its schedule of dangerous species, such as big cats, bears, venomous snakes, etc.
The Act is first and foremost public health and safety legislation, and covers animal welfare only secondarily. The Act only covers those species that are assessed to be dangerous to humans, which does not include the most commonly kept species of primates in the UK (such as marmosets), for example. This means the ownership of such animals is largely unregulated.
Born Free is asking the UK government to immediately review the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, calling for more restrictions on the ownership of dangerous wild animals. In 2018, Born Free revealed nearly 5,000 dangerous wild animals were being kept privately, and legally, under licence in Great Britain under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, including at least 240 primates, 650 venomous snakes and 250 dangerous wild cats.
Born Free’s 2018 survey revealed 4,825 dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept privately in Great Britain (and there may be many more kept without a licence). A total of 218 private addresses across 136 local authorities hold licences to keep dangerous wild animals such as lions, tigers, crocodilians and venomous reptiles.
Click on the local authority areas on our interactive map to find out which dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept privately.