Dangerous pets 'must be better controlled'

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The Independent Online

Urgent action is needed to protect the public from dangerous wild animals kept as pets, the RSPCA said last week. Loopholes in the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act have allowed unscrupulous traders to sell crocodiles in pubs and have resulted in a situation in which a boa constrictor terrorised a Welsh village, the organisation said.

In a new report the charity cited cases where the poor keeping of unlicensed dangerous exotic animals could have led to serious injury or death. It called for a series of changes in the act to avoid such animals being kept without licences and thus avoid inspection.

In one case a pet boa constrictor was allowed to roam a house freely, showing interest in its owners' new baby. Another boa constrictor escaped from a flat in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, causing widespread panic.

In another case eight venomous snakes were kept in cramped conditions in a Sheffield flat. A man in Essex paid £20 in a pub for what he thought was a lizard. It turned out to be an aggressive crocodile which could grow to seven feet. And two Eurasian lynxes were kept in a shed in Yorkshire, locked in with a wooden clothes peg.

An RSPCA spokesman said: "We cannot wait for tragedy to happen before controls are introduced."