Born Free has called for a reform of exotic pet keeping in the UK following the recent ITV documentary ‘Britain’s Tiger Kings – On The Trail With Ross Kemp’, which highlighted the growing problems associated with the keeping of wild animals as pets.
The foundation, which campaigns to “keep wildlife in the wild”, said it believes the documentary provided further evidence of the need for “far greater” restrictions on the trade in and keeping of wild animals as pets in the UK.
In response to the documentary, Born Free’s co-founder and executive president Will Travers OBE said: “I think most people will have found it unbelievable that, in this day and age, so many dangerous animals, including big cats, bears, crocodiles and venomous snakes, are being kept as pets by private individuals across the UK.
“Increasing demand for all kinds of wild animals as exotic pets puts owners and the wider public at risk of injury or disease. It can also cause serious animal suffering, and the demand may increase the pressure on many wild populations which are often already under threat.”
Born Free has previously highlighted that obtaining a Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) licence is “far too easy”. It said the DWA fails to keep the public safe, and “does not adequately address animal welfare and takes no account of wildlife conservation or owner suitability”.
Earlier this year, the group revealed almost 4,000 wild animals were being kept privately under DWA licenses across Great Britain. This number is “believed to be the tip of the iceberg”, it says, as “many species don’t currently require a licence”.
Some of these animals are kept for commercial purposes, however the majority are believed to be kept by individuals as pets, a practice that is on the increase, according to Born Free.
Its data also suggests an increase of at least 59% in dangerous wild animals kept as pets since 2000.
The Dangerous Wild Animals Act was intended to make the private keeping of dangerous wild animals “an exceptional circumstance”, however the ongoing increase in wild animals kept as pets “flies in the face of the intention of the Act”, according to the foundation.
It noted that the Act itself has not been “substantially” updated for more than 40 years, adding there are still species absent from the Schedule which are regarded as a risk to the public, such as large varanid lizards like Komodo dragons, large python & boa species, and a number of birds of prey.
Travers continued: “It’s high time for a comprehensive review of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and its Schedule, and far greater restrictions on the trade in and keeping of wild animals as pets in the UK.
“As a minimum, we are calling for full consideration of whether the welfare needs of individual animals can be met, and owners have necessary qualifications and experience; a guarantee that the trade does not compromise conservation of species in the wild; due consideration of potential environmental concerns; and confirmation there is no risk to wider health and safety of animals or people.”