RATTLESNAKES, cobras, alligators and crocodiles are among nearly 500 dangerous animals being kept on private properties around Scotland.
Ten local authorities across the land have issued special licences to wild animal owners, according to figures obtained under freedom of information legislation.
North Lanarkshire has been revealed as the local authority area with the highest number of dangerous animals in the country. Eight scary species are being kept in North Lanarkshire, including crocodiles, alligators, rattlesnakes, cobras and vipers.
Both Aberdeenshire and Perth & Kincross councils permit seven species each, including Bengal and Asian Leopard cats, bison and wild boar.
Special licences have also been issued in Scotland for lizards, ostriches and lemurs.
More than 100 councils across the UK have given people licences to keep a host of deadly predators, with some keeping a variety of species at their homes.
The league tables revealed details of where more than 300 snakes are kept across the UK, along with 15 wolves, 13 tigers, ten alligators and nine crocodiles. The most popular dangerous pets are lemurs, with licences for 115 of them being issued.
Experts condemned the findings, saying they were “deeply concerned” at the numbers and that animal welfare was being put at risk. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it was concerned that licences too often focus on protecting the public from harm, rather than on the well-being of the animals.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: “We are deeply concerned about the number of exotic animals, including dangerous wild animals, now being kept as pets. 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.
“This is why we would encourage anyone thinking of getting an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they’re a realistic pet.”
Local authorities across the UK are responsible for administering and enforcing the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act.
According to the Scottish Government, anyone wishing to keep dangerous animals must obtain a licence from their local authority prior to taking ownership of them.
Licences are granted by councils to allow people to keep undomesticated animals as pets, providing they have the requisite safety measures at their home and pay a small fee. The act does not apply to animals kept in zoos or circuses, which are covered by separate legislation.
The RSPCA spokeswoman added: “Licences for exotic animals classed as Dangerous Wild Animals – such as cobras, ostriches and caiman crocodiles – are granted by local authorities and the details are also held locally. There is no centrally held list to determine how many are kept across the country.
“The emphasis of this legislation is on making sure the owner takes reasonable steps to prevent the animal from being a threat to the public, rather than the welfare of the animals concerned.
“Exotic animals have specialist needs and this includes the ones listed on the Dangerous Wild Animals Act list.”
Wild animals kept in private properties
Aberdeenshire Council: Three bison, two capuchin monkeys, one ostrich, one serval cat, 45 Bengal cats, one caracal cat, four Asian leopard cats
Aberdeen City Council: One cobra, one rattlesnake, four beaded lizards
East Ayrshire Council: 13 wild boar
East Lothian Council: 200 wild boars
Fife Council: Two rattlesnakes, two cobras, one taipan, one death adder
Moray council: Four serval cats and eight Savannah cats
North Lanarkshire Council: Two caimans, two American alligators, two nile crocodiles, two dwarf crocodiles, two rattlesnakes, two cobras, seven vipers, five gila monsters
Perth and Kinross Council: Seven Preszwalski, 36 mouflon, six bison, 35 wild boar, two elk, two Savannah cats, one serval cat
Scottish Borders Council: 14 black and white ruffed lemurs, six ring-tailed lemurs
Stirling Council: 56 wild boar