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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 06:53 GMT
Loophole warning over dangerous pets
A caiman was found at a house in south Wales
The RSPCA in Wales has called on the government to tighten up legislation which allows dangerous wild animals to be kept as pets.

The organisation said the escape of a six-foot boa constrictor snake and the discovery of a member of the crocodile family in south Wales showed the need for action.

We cannot wait for a tragedy to happen

RSPCA Manager Kate Davies
In a report published on Wednesday, the RSPCA called for constrictor snakes to be added to the list of animals requiring a licence.

Officers also want annual inspections of licensed animals and new powers of entry with a warrant if someone is thought to be keeping an unlicensed animal.

The government is currently reviewing the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals(DWA) Act.

The law requires that certain animals kept privately, such as poisonous snakes and powerful reptiles, are licensed by local authorities and inspected by vets to protect the welfare of the general public and of the animal.

Only venomous snakes require licences
In its submission to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(DEFRA), the RSPCA said other dangerous snakes, such as constrictors, should be added to the list.

The organisation also wants the licence exemptions for pet shops and circuses to be lifted.

It also called for the setting up of central registers of licensed animals and banned keepers.

Kate Davies, RSPCA Manager for Wales, said: "Exotic animals do not make suitable pets because of their specialist needs.

"We feel strongly that snakes such as large pythons... which are capable of killing or harming a child... should be added to the list.

"We cannot wait for a tragedy to happen before controls are introduced."

Snake escape

In October 2001 an RSPCA inspector discovered a six-foot boa constrictor in an abandoned flat on the Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales.

The aggressive and underweight snake, which is native to south and central America, had escaped from its vivarium in a nearby flat.

Earlier this month inspectors found a two-and-a-half foot caiman - a member of the crocodile family - following a raid on a house in Rhondda.

The RSPCA said its owner did not realise the reptile had to be licensed, saying he found it dumped in a cardboard box outside his house.

The caiman - which can grow to more than seven-feet long - is now being kept at a specialist unit.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Under-16s may face pet-buying ban
22 Jun 01 | Americas
Croc snatch in New York park
24 Oct 01 | England
Snake shock for driver
24 Sep 01 | England
Dangerous spiders snatched
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