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A loyal Springer spaniel, a wild Yorkshire Terrier, a daft budgie or a cuddly kitten. These are what you would expect to find as pets. A Deadly Rattlesnake, a Herd of Wild Boar, a Pack of Wolves and an alligator are not within the usual stock at the pet store.

An FOI has revealed that councils throughout Scotland have issued licences for hundreds of wild animals to be kept in homes.  For a small fee, and having the “appropriate safety measures” you can have yourself a “Colin the Caiman Crocodile”, a “Berty the Bison”, or “a Mikey the Monkey”

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The full list of licences granted is below and it reads like a page from Noah’s Ark. Aside from the ethical concerns of keeping wild animals in captivity, particularly by untrained individuals who may not know how to properly look after them, it is very concerning there could be a death adder in the neighbour’s house. There are constantly stories about snakes escaping through the plumbing system. How many times has a neighbour’s dog made its way into your garden? Imagine if instead of a dog it was a one of the 200 Wild Boar within East Lothian.

The licencing regime is designed to ensure the safety the public as well as the animals’ welfare. However, only last weekend there was another serious dog bite attack. Dog owners can face criminal charges should their dog attack someone or be dangerously out of control in a public place. If a dog causes someone an injury the owner can be banned from owning dogs and may be fined or  imprisoned. There are also civil remedies. The owner is responsible for any damages, including injury to others, caused by their dog. The law in Scotland is governed by The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 and Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Thankfully The Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 provides that the keeper of the animal is liable for damage or injury caused by that animal. So if a herd of wild boar stampede your garden shed, the neighbour’s “friendly” Alligator eats your pet Chihuahua, or worse,  a Caiman takes a bite out of the mail man the keeper will be liable in compensation.  All animals listed in the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 are deemed likely to severely injure or kill persons or animals. Fortunately this means that if any of the licenced animals below cause someone an injury the injured person has a right of compensation against the keeper.  Importantly the keeper is strictly liable.

The issue is whether the keeper has any money.  There ought to be proper insurance in place to ensure there are funds available to pay for any damage. Home or pet insurance often covers dog owners against third party claims but would it cover against a Caiman attack?

It is, at first glance, pretty concerning that these wild animals could be just over the fence from you. It should of course be some small comfort that at least they are tracked and regulated. It would be even more comfort if they were properly insured.

Licences granted

  • 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
  • Highland Council - three wild boar (four allowed)
  • 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

Blog by Alan Calderwood, Solicitor

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