The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976Hybrids 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
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
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
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.
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:
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6EB