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80% of dangerous pets are kept illegally.

EIGHTY per cent of dangerous pets in the UK are being kept illegally, experts said yesterday

Snakes, alligators and crocodiles are among those singled out, with the trade in reptiles having shot up by 500% over the past 10 years, Scotland's Festival of Politics heard.

Mike Flynn of the Scottish SPCA said the situation could easily lead to someone being killed.

Owners are fearful that local councils - which grant licences to keep dangerous animals - will refuse their application, leading the British Herpetological Society to estimate four-fifths are kept without a licence.

"They reckon that 80% of these animals are held ille gally.

"That's snakes, alligators, crocodiles, all this kind of stuff," said Mr Flynn.

"Obviously, venomous snakes are the biggest worry.

"We've had three in the last five years. The last one we had was a green tree viper down in the Borders.

"The biggest problem with that is because it was smuggled in from abroad, there is no known anti-venom in the country for it.

"If you're bitten by it, you are dying. It's as simple as that.

"Enforcement agencies are going into places to speak to the licensing authorities and being told 'No there're no dangerous animals here'.

"There are that many different snakes, you would need an expert to be able to identify them."

Mr Flynn added that as well as public safety, the illegal trade also raised concerns over the animals' welfare. "If something goes wrong with the animal, where do you take it for veterinary treatment?

"If you turn up at a vet without a licence, then there's the worry they might end up in court."

Mr Flynn was attending an event on the impact of world trade on global welfare, chaired by MSP Christine Grahame.

Professor Ranald Munro of the World Society for the Protection of Animals was also speaking.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 24, 2006
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