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Changes to dangerous wild animals act cause concern

CHANGES TO the law governing the ownership of certain exotic species of animals has been a matter of concern to conservationists and other experts.

The RSPCA is concerned that more people could buy exotic pets without knowing how to look after them properly - and potentially put the animal or themselves at risk now that 33 species no longer need licences.

Changes to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which recently came into effect, have taken many animals including racoons, emus, sloths and squirrel monkeys off the list of animals for which licences are needed.

Tim Thomas, RSPCA wildlife scientist, said: ‘The RSPCA is disappointed and concerned that several exotic species have been removed from the Dangerous Wild Animals Act schedule.

‘Many exotic animals are not only potentially dangerous to humans but are extremely difficult to look after properly and need specialist care.’

The RSPCA campaigned against the decision because many of these animals are extremely difficult to look after properly and being named under the Act meant that a vet was required to inspect where the animal will normally be held before a licence was issued.

The Society is urging people to research whether they can properly look after exotic pets before they buy them and all pet shops to inform customers of the welfare needs of the animals they sell.

The RSPCA carried out a survey of 282 pet shops in England and Wales - as part of a report called The Welfare State due to be published later this month - which showed that:

• only twenty per cent of shops provided free care sheets to potential buyers and excluding one major pet shop chain, this went down to just five per cent

• 20 per cent of potential pet buyers were given no care advice whatsoever

• two per cent of pet shops sold crocodilians, such as caimans

• of reptiles surveyed, only 25 per cent of cages displayed information about how big the animal inside would grow.

Previous research carried out by the RSPCA shows that the most common problems exotic pet owners experience (reported by more than 40 per cent of keepers) stem from a lack of information provided by the supplier. Some 21 per cent reported difficulties simply feeding their pets, while eight per cent said their pets were growing too fast.

We understand that DEFRA will be undertaking a full consultation on the Act in the near future and the RSPCA will again make its concerns known,’ added Mr Thomas. ‘However, we are pleased that some additional species were added to the list, such as the Thin-Tailed Scorpion and the Amazon False Viper.

‘The new Animal Welfare Act puts a duty of care on pet owners to meet all the welfare needs of their animals, and we urge people to thoroughly research their choice of pet before they buy it and make sure they can look after it properly.’

Amongst the species added to the list is the Dingo, which is extremely rare in its original native form. Much of the Australian Dingo population are now hybrids between Dingos and domestic dogs.