Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 16:55 UK

Tiger and vipers among NI 'pets'

Tiger
A tiger is among a list of dangerous animals being kept by local owners

A tiger, a cheetah and venomous snakes are among a list of wild animals kept by private owners in Northern Ireland.

The information was released to SDLP MLA Thomas Burns in response to a question he tabled in the Assembly.

The South Antrim MLA expressed his surprise at the "wide variety of dangerous wild animals" which are currently owned by local people.

Nineteen licences covering 60 creatures have been issued and are active. They do not include circus animals.

The licences have been issues for various primates, wolves, zebras, and emus.

Mr Burns said: "We recently heard of a wolf being sighted in the wild in Tyrone and last year we had reports of a lion wandering around north Belfast.

"Both these incidents proved to be misunderstandings, but in light of this new information it now seems these stories are at least plausible."

'Terrifying'

Mr Burns added that he imagines animals like emus, zebras and small primates "would enjoy a high quality of life" with a skilled keeper in the right environment.

However, he said he was concerned by the fact that big cats and deadly snakes were being kept by local owners.

"I obviously don't know the circumstances of each case, but when you look at things from a public safety point of view the thought of a venomous snake on the loose is pretty terrifying.

"At the same time I would also commend the owners for following the correct legal procedures by registering their animals and obtaining the proper licences" he said.

The legal requirement to register ownership of such animals was introduced almost three years ago.



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