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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 06:57 GMT
Dangerous animal laws to change
By Arthur Strain
BBC News

Despite the quills the porcupine is not considered a threat to people
In the year since Northern Ireland received its first controls on owning dangerous wild animals only 15 people now hold licences.

The licensing laws brought Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK and have been updated.

The list was expanded in the UK to ban the dingo, an Australian wild dog, and the Argentine black-headed snake.

The Department of the Environment will put the update before the NI Assembly, but no timetable has been indicated.

However, it has now been decided that the wooly lemur, North American porcupine and the Brazilian wolf spider do not pose a danger to the public at large.

David Wilson of the USPCA said that while the number of licence holders seemed low, the animal welfare charity was happy there were controls on the ownership of certain animals.

He said that the legislation, which his organisation had backed, at least guaranteed standards for those animals that had been licensed. The trade in endangered species is covered by other laws.

"Our concern is primarily the welfare of animals, we don't want them to end up in the hands of cowboys who don't know how to take care of them," he said.

In Northern Ireland they have come across people keeping rattlesnakes, big cats and even intercepted a shipment of caimans (a South American crocodile).

There have also been several reports of big-cat sightings across Northern Ireland in recent years, but no recorded attacks on humans.

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