PROPOSED new legislation to regulate the keeping of
dangerous wild animals in Northern Ireland does not go far enough to protect the
public, it was claimed today.
The Dangerous Wild Animals (NI) Order 2004, which is currently going through a consultation process, is aiming to introduce new laws to protect the public and safeguard the welfare of wild animals.
At present no legislation exists to prevent anyone from keeping exotic pets in Ulster and USPCA shelters are now home to tigers, lions and wolves rescued from unsuitable living condition.
However, the proposals that will make it illegal for anyone to own wild animals without a licence and give the Department of Agriculture powers of entry and inspection to premises where exotic animals are kept does not extend to circuses in Northern Ireland.
Former Assembly member for East Londonderry David McClarty believes circuses must be made to follow the same new laws in the interests of public safety.
"Zoos are subject to recent legislation regarding wild animals. However, at this stage no specific controls are in place to control dangerous wild animals in circuses.
"We are leaving ourselves open to problems with circuses with dangerous animals travelling freely through Ulster towns which may be kept in poor or unsecured conditions.
"We do not want a repeat of the summer in north Antrim where considerable resources were spent attempting to catch an escaped puma and panther which were on the loose as a direct result of Northern Ireland having no legislation about the keeping of exotic pets."
The Government came under extreme pressure during the summer months to introduce legislation in Northern Ireland similar to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in operation in Great Britain.
The release of two wild cats in the north Antrim countryside in August by a private owner who was unwilling to care for them sparked a huge six-week search by USPCA and PSNI officers.
Hundreds of police man-hours were taken up tracking the wild cats after carcasses of cattle were found in remote farmland.
Rural dwellers refused to let their children play outdoors for fear of a big cat attack after experts failed to catch the wild animals.
USPCA figures reveal that there are at least five other wild cats roaming the Ulster countryside and concerned Co Antrim farmers who lost livestock demanded that laws be put in place immediately to prevent further incidents.
|Return to index||Return to Scottish Big Cats||Return to Government Action|