Britons Are Keeping Thousands of Dangerous Animals as Pets

An Asiatic lioness at London Zoo, London, England, March 17. British councils grant dangerous wild animals licenses to pet owners who pay a fee and prove they have the requisite safety measures in place. Leon Neal/Getty

Lions, wolves and deadly venomous snakes are among the thousands of dangerous animals currently being kept on private properties across the U.K., according to an investigation by the Press Association.

Britons have various big cats as pets, including 13 tigers, two lions, eight leopards, seven cheetahs and nine pumas. There are also 300 killer cobras, vipers and rattlesnakes hanging out with humans across the U.K.

Figures reveal that more than 100 councils have given people licenses to keep deadly predators, with some keeping a variety of different species at their homes.

The information was obtained through freedom of information requests sent to every council in the U.K., of which 363 replied. The Environment Agency provided the figures for Northern Ireland.

Councils grant dangerous wild animals licenses to allow people to keep undomesticated animals as pets, providing they have the requisite safety measures at their home and pay a small fee.

Among the most popular dangerous pets is the lemur, a small monkey, 115 of which are being kept in domestic settings, while smaller cats—which are often crosses between domestic and larger wild cats, like Savannahs—are also in high demand. Fifteen wolves are registered at U.K. addresses.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was concerned that licenses too often focus on protecting the public from harm, rather than on the wellbeing of the animals.

"People may buy them with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep and the animals are sometimes neglected when the novelty wears off and the commitment hits home," said a spokeswoman for the charity.