The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 is the legislation which ensures that private individuals who keep wild animals do so in a way that minimises the risk to the public

You may know the team at Wheldon Law as the dog law specialists, but we also recognise that some will favour more exotic or wild pets, perhaps even ‘dangerous wild animals’ (DWA).

Anyone wishing to keep a DWA will require a licence from their local authority

Animals which require a licence include:

  • Wild cats
  • Primates
  • Wild dogs (e.g. wolves)
  • Certain breeds of pig (e.g. wild boar)
  • Marsupials
  • Certain types of venomous snakes

Click here to see a full list of animals you need a licence for please add link to list.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 there are legal requirements for the keeping of any vertebrate (i.e. non-human animals with a spine) in the UK. This includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. For instance, you must ensure that any animal you are responsible for:

  • Has a suitable diet and fresh water
  • Has somewhere suitable to live
  • Is kept with, or apart from other animals, depending on its needs
  • Is allowed to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

You must also be a minimum of 16 years old to own any animal.

With exotic species, however, these requirements are more strictly monitored and are more onerous. The authority you are applying to will want to satisfy themselves that the animals will be kept in appropriate and secure accommodation and that the owner is a suitable person to hold a licence. Additional conditions may be imposed by the local authority and the owner will need to take out insurance to cover liability for any damage which may be caused by the animal.

Please be aware that the precise conditions imposed will largely depend on which authority you make your application to and applications can take many months to process.


The costs of licences can vary drastically. For example, Dacorum Borough Council will charge a total of £187, plus veterinary fees, for a new application for a DWA licence. By comparison, St. Albans City and District Council will charge £315 plus veterinary fees and Nottingham City Council charge £1199 for the licence, although this includes veterinary fees of £251.

These are just the costs for an initial application. In addition to this, it is likely to be a requirement of any licence that you carry insurance at a further cost to you and this is before you consider the costs of keeping the animal to the standards required by the licence.


It is an offence to breach the terms of a DWA licence issued by the local authority or to keep any animal requiring such a licence, without one. The maximum penalty for these offences is a fine which is currently £2,000.

It is also an offence to obstruct or delay an inspector or authorised veterinary practitioner/veterinary surgeon from entering the premises for the purposes of carrying out an inspection or assessment of the animal. Again, the maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of £2000.

If you keep animals without the necessary licence or if you breach the conditions of the licence, the authority may seize them and can retain, destroy or dispose of them (e.g. to a zoo or wildlife park) without any compensation to you. You would also be liable for any costs incurred by the authority.

If you are under investigation for, or have been charged with a Dangerous Wild Animals Act offence, please call us on 01442 242999 for some free initial advice, or email us at

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