There are almost 5,000 dangerous wild animals kept privately under licence across Britain, outside zoos. While some of these animals may be kept on farms, or by rescue centres, a worryingly large number are kept as pets.
The keeping of wild animals as pets has always been a concern to Born Free. Wild animals often have complex social, physical and behavioural needs, and specialist knowledge is needed to avoid significantly compromising their health and welfare. Wild animals can also be powerful and unpredictable, posing a significant safety risk to both owners and the public. Those species categorised as dangerous under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 pose a particular threat to people.
Earlier this year, Born Free launched a petition urging the UK government to review the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, calling for changes to the law governing private ownership of dangerous wild animals. On 4th December 2018 we reached our target of 10,000 signatures (a huge thank you to everyone who signed), and received an official response from government to the petition.
Dr Chris Draper, Born Free's Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, said: “We are grateful to our supporters for their outpouring of support on this matter. We are greatly concerned that the current legislation protects neither wild animals or people sufficiently. While the government has responded quickly to our petition, the matter cannot be easily dismissed and they have a duty to investigate further. For example, the list of species currently considered dangerous under the Act, which is considered ‘effective’ by government, does not include large constrictor snakes which can pose significant threats to human life”.
Last year, a man in Hampshire was killed by his pet African rock python, a large constrictor snake not currently listed on the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and therefore not requiring a licence to be kept.
We will submit a detailed response to DEFRA soon, and will keep you updated.