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Posted: 17th June 2024

Charity calls for political candidates to review exotic pet laws
A study found inconsistencies in exotic animal regulations.
Born Free asks that an incoming government addresses dangerous pet ownership.

The Born Free Foundation has called for the political parties campaigning in the general election to make a commitment to reviewing laws on exotic pet ownership in the UK.

The animal welfare charity says that, following a formal evaluation of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (DWAA), it has identified significant animal welfare concerns in the existing legislation.

The legislation allows some animals considered ‘dangerous’ to be kept by private owners, farmers and exhibitors if they have a licence under the DWAA. Zoos, laboratories and pet shops are currently exempt from licensing.

However the study has raised concerns about the lack of definition for ‘dangerous’ animals, and the inconsistencies it found in regulations for keeping the animals.

The charity found that the DWAA list of animals requiring a licence missed some clearly dangerous species, including large lizards and constrictor snakes. Furthermore, the revision of some species’ taxonomic names without a corresponding review of the DWAA list has meant some species have been dropped from the list for no reason other than a name change.

Born Free found evidence that some licences had been granted without authorities knowing the exact species being kept.

The DWAA licensing system is based on the idea that wild animals can be kept in a way which minimises risk to the public, while satisfying the welfare needs of the animal. As such Born Free says that almost any wild animal can be kept as a pet in the UK, providing the keeper meets a set of generic welfare requirements.

This raised circumstances where animals were not being kept in environments which met their needs, with the study suggesting a quarter of all primates may be being kept alone – despite their social requirements.

Born Free is therefore calling for a comprehensive review of the trade and keeping of exotic pets in the UK, with particular focus on the outdated DWAA regulations.

It suggests that political parties consider a ‘Positive List’ system, already implemented in other countries, where only species specifically added to the list can be kept – if the keeper meets certain criteria.

Chris Lewis, Captivity Research and Policy Manager at Born Free, said: “Current exotic pet legislation is reactionary and unable to keep up with ever-changing pet-keeping trends. It is also predicated upon the assumption it is possible to keep exotic wild animals in a way which does not compromise their welfare or pose a risk to private keepers.

“More and more evidence is emerging that challenges this notion.

“Born Free is calling on all political parties to commit to a comprehensive review of the trade in and keeping of exotic pets in the UK, including the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.”

The full study can be found in the journal Animals.

Image © Shutterstock

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