New pets law allows emus to be kept without licence

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Animal lovers with a penchant for exotic pets can now keep sloths, raccoons or even emus after the Government relaxed the regulations on owning wild animals.

A total of 33 new species can now be owned without a licence after a review of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act deemed them not to be a risk to the public.

They include a number of wild cats, North American and crested porcupines, hyraxes, sand snakes, mangrove snakes and the Brazilian wolf spider.

Woolly lemurs, tamarins, night (owl) monkeys, titi monkeys and squirrel monkeys also no longer require a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act but are still covered by Cites, the international conservation legislation which regulates the trade in threatened species. And there are some new additions to the list of animals for which animal owners do need a licence, including the dingo.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs drew up the new list after a review of the 1976 Act because of concerns of non-compliance and because some of the animals on it were no more dangerous than a cat or dog.

Experts assessed which animals should be on the list on a number of criteria including whether they were likely and capable of doing serious harm to humans.

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act regulates the keeping of wild animals to ensure they are kept in circumstances which don't pose a risk to the public, and protects the animals' welfare, Defra said.