Dangerous Wild Animals Legislation and other Laws that Control Animal Keeping

Dangerous Wild Animals Legislation and other Laws that Control Animal Keeping

One of the most frequent thing that reptile and other exotics keepers hear, after that story about a friend of a friend having a snake that was sizing them up for a meal, is ‘Don’t you need a licence to keep them?’

For the most the answer is no, but for some keepers there is legalisation and licences that they have to contend with. This is normally determined by the risk the animal represents. To the public if it escapes, to the keeper themselves, to wildlife if it escapes and becomes feral and to the wild population if it is removed and taken as a pet.

Dangerous Wild Animals

Probably the most extensive legislation relating to exotic animal keeping. This piece of legislation was introduced to try and control the huge number of wild animals that had been bought on a whim and now needed a new home, after the owner discovered that keeping a tiger in a two bedroom terrace or a crocodile in a garden pond wasn’t an option.

There are two sides to the legislation, firstly that the animal is kept in such a way that there is no risk to the public, and secondly that the animal is kept in adequate conditions. Not that the legislation calls for adequate conditions, not perfect or ideal, in reality it’s almost impossible for some of these animals on the list to be kept in captivity without the animal suffering in some way.

Animals on the List

For the full list please refer to the DWA page on the gov.uk website, but to give you an idea here’s a brief overview of what animals are legally considered dangerous wild animals.

There are more mammals on the list than people realise. Most monkeys and apes are on the list, there are only a few exceptions, the Tasmainian Devil, most Kanagaroos, Giant Armidillos and Giant Anteaters, Wild Dogs, including wolves and jackals. Dingoes are on the list despite being domesticated in certain situations, Hyenas, all bears, most badgers, otters and Civets, Walrus, seals, most big cats and most wild cats, elephants, hippos, rhinos, giraffe, all equids, other than domestic horses and donkeys, and most non domesticated large herd animals, like bison, buffalo, camels, moose etc. and last but not least wild pigs and boars.

There is a much smaller list of birds, which includes Cassowaries and the Ostrich but no other birds.

Reptiles are probably the area that most people think of when talking about dangerous wild animals, but again it’s a smaller list. The Obvious ones of Crocodiles, Alligators and Caimans as are certain front and rear fanged venomous snakes, burrowing asps, a short list of other venomous snakes, sea snakes, the Gila Monster, and the Mexican bearded lizard,

Insects are an equally short list Wandering Spiders, Sydney Funnel Web and close relatives, Brown Recluse spiders, Widow Spiders and close relatives, Buthid Scorpions and Middle-Eastern Thin Tails Scorpions.

There are any number of species that people feel should be on the list, but aren’t, and no one will deny that a fully grown dairy bull is far more dangerous than some of the animals on this list, but it does force people to do their research and think twice before getting a whole host of animals that can kill.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna is an international agreement between governments with the aim of ensuring that any trade in specimens of wild animals and plants doesn’t impact on the species survival.

For a pet owner this means that any species on the CITES lists needs paperwork to be bought and sold, and moved across international borders. Again there is a huge and varied list, and sadly many of the rarest species are still being caught and sold as food without CITES paperwork. Most keepers see the issues laying with loss of habitat and use as a food source rather than the small numbers caught from the wild to enrich the captive bred population.

Legisaltion controlling invasive species

At the time of writing this exotic keepers are waiting with something close to fear for the upcoming European Invasive Species act. Whilst there will only be 50 species on the list, and this will include plants, fish, mammals and reptiles, it seems at least one frequent pet on the list will be the Trachemys species, better known as Pond Slider Turtles. No one has any idea what this will mean for the thousands already being kept as pets, but the signs are not promising for the thousands in rescues looking for homes.

The arguments for legislating these sorts of species include the damage done to the ecosystem by two already controlled species, the American Mink and the Grey Squirrel. The thousands of abandoned animals such as the pond slider and the bearded dragon in rescues, and the numbers of thriving pond sliders and other turtles in the wild all over the world.

The arguments against point to the fact that whilst some of these exotic animals if released can do harm, so can the more traditional pets such as cats and rabbits, and that the legislation should treat all these possible invaders with an equal hand.

Dangerous Dogs

There are a number of laws governing dog ownership, but in short it is illegal to …

  • Allow your dog to be dangerously out of control, this applies in in public and private places, and in your own home. Dangerously out of control means that it injures someone, or makes someone believe they might be injured, and may be applicable if they kill or injure another animal, or the owner of another animal thinks they could be injured if they try to stop your dog attacking their animal.
  • Own, sell, give away or breed from a banned dog, these include Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero. See the list of banned dogs here.
  • Allow your dog to foul without cleaning it up (unless you are registered blind). Some councils are making it mandatory to carry disposable bags and a means of cleaning up your dog’s waste i.e. a poop scoop.
  • Enter areas that have been specified by a Dog Control Order as prohibited to dogs. These may include certain beaches, farmland and parks.
  • Walk too many dogs in specific areas.
  • Fail to put your dog on a lead if ordered to do so by a police officer, police community support officer or a council official in an area under a Dog Control Area.

The penalties for having an out of control dog include fines of up to £5000 and 6 months in jail, rising to 5 years if your dog injures someone and 14 years if you allow them to kill someone. You can be jailed for 3 years for allowing your dog to injure a guide dog.

It’s worth noting that if you allow your dog to worry, chase, injure or kill livestock, or the farmer has a reasonable belief that this may happen they can legally kill your dog. Whilst this may seem unreasonable thousands of sheep and other animals are killed each year by out of control dogs. Often whilst the owner watches. Always keep your dog completely under control, preferable by putting them on a fixed leash and collar they can’t escape from or a harness.

The legislation on pet ownership is varied and wide reaching, so always do your research.

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