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UK:  Licensing  Regulations.


The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

Hybrids of domestic animals and the Dangerous Wild Animals Act

Bengal cats and the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

(c) Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

The Act regulates the keeping of certain kinds of dangerous animals as pets. Licences are required for any animal which appears on a schedule to the Act.

The Act defines the 'Bengal cat' as not a true species but rather a hybrid of the domestic cat crossed with the Asian leopard cat, several generations removed from the wild ancestor. It is not specifically named on the Schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act but it technically falls within the catch-all listing of all species of Felidae (i.e. the cat family) except Felis catus, the domestic cat. Its effective inclusion in the list of affected species has partly arisen as the Schedule pre-dates the breeding of these animals in this country.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is reviewing the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.  In 2004 they published proposals to revise the legislation, including a proposal that the Act's Schedule be amended to make it explicit that Bengal cats do not require licensing. This was on the grounds that they are not considered to be sufficiently dangerous to warrant such regulation. Public consultation has taken place and they will be taking decisions on these proposals in due course.

Other hybrids of Dangerous Wild Animal cat species with domestic cats would also fall within the catch-all listing for Felidae.

**This consultation closed on 20 September 2004.

There has been further consideration of the Act and of the consultation responses.

Changes to the list of species covered by the Act had been planned to be taken forward in 2006. However there were other legislative changes planned which also related to the keeping of wild animals, such as the Animal Welfare Bill (now Act) and new proposals under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which addressed welfare and conservation objectives respectively.

Taking forward changes to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act's schedule of species in isolation could have had implications for these other objectives, and we therefore intended to consider all of the legislative changes affecting keeping of wild animals together, in order to reach consistent and coherent decisions. This means that changes to the 1976 Act's schedule are now planned for early 2007 alongside the Animal Welfare Act coming into force.

On the main body of the Act, we are mindful of the current failings of the Act and are intending to develop new options for Ministers which aim to deliver the public safety benefits of the legislation and also look to reduce the level of regulatory burden on local authorities and animal keepers. This will involve taking a wider view, looking at the range of other relevant legislation, particularly that relating to public safety, and also taking into account other initiatives such as the Animal Welfare Act. Further public consultation is expected in 2007.

Present Situation:
Local authorities are responsible for licensing and enforcement under the Act. Many exercise their discretion in respect of Bengal cats (for example if the animals are many generations removed from the wild ancestor and are essentially indistinguishable from domestic animals) and regard them as domestic cats and therefore not in requirement of a licence under the Act.

If owners are in doubt as to whether animals require licensing, then Defra advises them to contact their local authority for advice.

If you have any queries (relating to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act), please contact Tom Adams of the Department's Wildlife Species Conservation Division on 0117 372 8209, or at:

Zone 1/10
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6EB


Crown copyright 2007


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