Dangerous animals

Dangerous animals

Animals can be dangerous not only because of the diseases they can carry, but because of the physical damage they can cause to property and to people. The law tries to protect the public from these animals by making owners of certain animals get a licence. People can also be disqualified from owning dangerous wild animals.

Laws regarding dangerous animals

The main legislation regarding licensing is the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and in Northern Ireland, the Dangerous Wild Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 2004.

These laws aim to ensure that private individuals keep dangerous wild animals in circumstances that create no risk to the public. These individuals must also protect the welfare of the animals.

Licences are required for any animal that appears on the schedules to both the Act and Order.

Licences are issued by the relevant local authority or the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland.

These authorities will only grant a licence when they're satisfied that:

  • it wouldn't be contrary to public interest on the grounds of safety or nuisance;
  • the applicant is a suitable person; and
  • the animal's accommodation is adequate and secure.

If the authorities grant a licence, they can impose certain conditions, such as:

  • requiring the animal to be kept only by those named on the licence;
  • making the animal stay on the premises specified in the licence; and
  • requiring the licence holder to have a current insurance policy that insures both the licence holders and others against any liability caused by the animal.

The Act and Order don't apply to any dangerous wild animal kept in a zoo, circus, pet shop or registered scientific establishment.

Other laws

Other legislation that also touches on dangerous animals include:

  • Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
  • The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment Act) 1997
  • Zoo Licensing Act 1981
  • Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 (in Northern Ireland)
  • Zoo Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (in Northern Ireland)

See Dogs and puppies for more information on dangerous dogs.

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