THE number of people keeping exotic pets is on the rise, but could you be living next door to one of the world's deadliest animals?


Nearly 4,000 dangerous wild animals are kept as pets in the UK - including two in Dorset - a figure that has been steadily rising since the turn of the millenium. 

There has been a 59 per cent increase in exotic pet ownership since 2000 which has led to animal rights charities calling for an immediate overhaul of current legislation.

The research reviewed the number of Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) Act licences granted by local authorities in 2020 across England, Scotland and Wales, and the variety of species being privately kept.

What exotic animals are kept as pets in Dorset?

Local authorities in Dorset revealed that the licences granted cover two Spectacled caiman - also known as the common caiman, these crocodilians are classified as 'dangerous reptiles'.

Bournemouth Echo:

Two spectacled caiman are being kept in Dorset - By Keven Law

They have a spectacle-like ridge between their eyes, which is where its name comes from and a total of 72-76 teeth.

Adult males can grow from 6.5 to eight feet in total length and they have a reputation for being particularly aggressive.

According to it is much harder to end up with a tame spectacled caiman, and most adults become quite difficult to handle.

What other exotic animals are kept in the UK?

Shockingly, the entire combined data across all authorities highlighted that a total of 210 DWA licences were granted for the keeping of 3,951 individual wild animals including:

●        320 wild cats (including 61 big cats – 11 lions, eight tigers, 11 leopards, 18 pumas, 10 cheetahs, two ligers and one jaguar)

●        274 primates (including more than 150 lemurs)

●        158 crocodilians

●        508 venomous snakes (including 57 diamondback rattlesnakes)

●        332 scorpions

●        106 venomous lizards

●        Two elephants

Bournemouth Echo:

More than 150 lemus are being kept in the UK - Born Free,  M Dooley.

Other species on the DWA list that are being kept as pets or in private collections in the UK include zebras, camels, fossa (a kind of civet), hyaena, sun bears, wolves, and otters.

Born Free have been collecting and analysing DWA data for more than 20 years and have seen a  dramatic increase in the number of exotic pets in private ownership, including a 94 per-cent increase in the number of venomous snakes, 57 per-cent increase in wild cats and 198 per-cent increase in crocodilians.

Dr Mark Jones, veterinarian and Born Free's head of policy, said:

"These figures are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg.

"They only record those animals being kept and registered with a DWA licence. Born Free believes that many additional dangerous wild animals are being kept without a licence.”

What does the current legislation state?

Currently, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, anyone in Britain can keep a dangerous wild animal as long as they obtain a licence from their local authority.

The licencing process requires the applicant to demonstrate that their animals are properly contained so as to prevent escape and protect the public, but this does little to ensure the welfare of the animals or the protection of the owner or anyone else visiting the property.

While changes have been made to the schedule, Born Free is highlighting the fact that the Act itself has not been reviewed substantially for more than 40 years.

There is long-standing concern about widespread non-compliance with the Act, especially with respect to venomous reptiles and invertebrates.

Dr Jones said:

"Increasing demand for all kinds of wild animals as exotic pets puts owners and the wider public at risk of injury or disease.

"It also results in serious animal suffering, and the demand increases the pressure on many wild populations which are often already under threat.”

Have their been any horror stories in the UK?

Bournemouth Echo:

Eight tigers are being kept in the UK as pets (Born Free)

Just last year a hybrid Savannah cat escaped in Hampstead, London. 

Plus a seven-foot-long Boa constrictor appeared in someone’s back garden and then turned on its rescuer biting his hand and wrapping itself around his wrist on the Isle of Sheppey.

There have been other horror stories where a woman was bitten in the eye by a python at a Mayfair club and almost blinded, while a man in Hampshire was killed by his 8ft African rock python.

Records held by the RSPCA report that their specially-trained exotics officers rescued over 4,000 exotic animals in 2018 alone. Due to the nature of the animals, most owners fail to report escapes or attacks for fear of the animal being removed or their licence revoked. 

Dr Jones said: "The Dangerous Wild Animals Act should be overhauled as a matter of urgency, in order to phase-out the private keeping of and trade in those species that clearly don’t belong in people’s homes."