Belfast Telegraph

Venomous snakes, two tigers and a wolf among 'pets' being kept in Northern Ireland

By Staff Reporter

Despite St Patrick's best efforts, new official figures have revealed there are now plenty of snakes in this part of Ireland - and some of them are potential killers.

Figures released by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) show there are 33 venomous snakes in private ownership in Northern Ireland.

They are among 90 dangerous animals registered to 22 licence holders.

The numbers have risen rapidly since 2015, when a total of 39 exotic creatures were held by 11 licensed keepers here.

As well as deadly snakes like the cobra, inland taipan and black mamba, and venomous lizards like the Gila monster, the list includes two tigers, a wolf, 11 emus and nine lemurs.

Prior to 2006 there was no requirement to register dangerous animals.

Currently, a licence costs £80 and must be renewed every year.

Before a licence to keep a dangerous wild animal can be awarded the applicant will be visited by DAERA representatives, who will inspect their premises to ensure that they are suitable for the animals the applicant wishes to keep.

Next an officially appointed vet will call to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to care for the creature.

Only if these inspections prove satisfactory will DAERA issue a licence.

People bringing animals into Northern Ireland must apply for an import licence. Animal charities are opposed to the keeping of wild animals as exotic pets, which are often taken from the wild and transported long distances.

David Wilson of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that keeping dangerous wild animals privately should be banned.

"Our concern is for the care and wellbeing of these exotic creatures," he said.

"These are animals that need special care and attention.

"They are not domesticated: they are not companion animals.

"That said, the licensing system we have today is a vast improvement on the situation before 2006, when people could keep just about anything.

"There was a time when there were 30 lions and five tigers at the Ben Varden Park in north Antrim.

"But that's changed now, thanks to the regulations brought in under direct rule."

It could not be confirmed whether the list included animals held in university research labs.

Belfast Telegraph

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