10 Exotic Animals You Need A Licence To Own in UK

Serval Cat

Most pet owners seek an animal that will give them companionship and affection, but some are drawn towards more exotic pets.

We’re certainly cared for a few spiders, lizards and snakes. Some of these have unusual needs but providing their owners and carers understand these and are able to meet them it’s possible to keep them in captivity. Other species are more problematic. If you wish to keep any of the following wild animals as pets you’ll need a special licence:

#1. Serval Cat

First on our list as they’re so beautiful we can understand the temptation. On the down side they weight anything up to 25kg, like to hunt at night, need a lot of space and a specialist diet. Oh, and they will mark their territory, so they’ll pee on your belongings… and on you, too!


#2. Lynx

All Lynx species are regarded as dangerous animals in the UK, even though the smallest member of the family, the Bobcat which at 9 kg is smaller than many dogs. Still they’re wild animals and will need lots of outdoor space and a raw meat diet. Bobcat owners will tell you that hand-reared these can make affectionate pets, but any responsible would­-be owner would want to understand why and how the kits came to be bottle fed in the first place.

Red Panda

#3. Red Panda

All bears come under the dangerous animals act, we mention red pandas because at 3 to 7 kg they’re only slightly larger than the average domestic cat so they look small enough to keep as pets. However, they need a very specialist diet, mostly bamboo and a lot of it and their chosen sleeping space is in a tree. They’re endangered in the wild so if you’d like to support these cute looking exotic animals, your best bet might be to support a conservation charity.

Capuchin Monkey

#4. Capuchin Monkey

These are cute too, but before considering one as a pet you should remember that in the wild they live in large groups so one in your home is likely to be lonely. They need a highly specialised diet and disease is an issue too. Like all, primates capuchins will be more vulnerable to some human diseases that we are.


#5. Chimpanzees

OK, so Tarzan had one, but then he lived in the jungle. Baby chimps are adorable but they’re notorious for becoming aggressive when they reach adolescence. An adult chimp could weigh up to 70 kg, that’s as much as some people and they’re far stronger. There are lots of theories about why chimps become aggressive but we wonder if it’s simply that they’re far too intelligent to be kept in captivity without resenting it.


#6. Wolves

No great surprise here, they’re wolves! Your domestic dog may share common ancestry but 32 000 years or more of living alongside humans has had an impact on their instinctive behaviour. If that’s not enough to convince you consider the cost of the 3 kg or so of raw meat required to feed your wolf per day and remember that in the wild wolves might travel 20 miles or so in a day, that’s a lot of walkies! At Balham Doggy Centre we can sort of see how walking a wolf on a lead would look impressive but they’re actually far more impressive in the wild when left to live out their own lives.


#7. Ostrich

There are only two birds on the dangerous wild animals list, the ostrich is one of them. They weigh up to 140 kg; stand over 2 metres tall and when they’re not burying their heads in the sand they can run at 50 km/h. They are sometimes bred for meat or eggs in the UK but need lots of space and they’re extremely social birds – even if you have space for one in your garden it wouldn’t be happy.

Wild Boar

#8. Wild Boar

You can keep a domestic pig if you choose, though they’re subject to some strict regulations, but you need a dangerous animals licence for wild boar. They are native to the UK so at least you don’t have to worry about temperature and climate but you’ll need a large and very secure outdoor enclosure to keep them in. All pigs like to dig and they’re notorious for breaking into gardens and destroying or eating everything in sight. There have been accounts of wild boar in the UK attacking dogs too.


#9. Crocodiles

We’re not sure why anyone would want to keep one, but you’ll need a licence should you wish to do so. According to the DWAA there are indeed 72 registered crocodile and alligators kept in the UK. Clearly you’ll need a pond or pool and some species can grow up to 6 metres in length, so it will have to be a largish one. We can see they’d make a good burglar deterrent but they’re not known to bond with their owners. There are easier ways to keep your home secure.


#10. Cobras

These are the traditional ‘snake charmer’s’ companion but few of us would be brave enough to keep a cobra. Their venom can kill an adult in minutes and to make matters worse they can spit venom and they aim for the eyes. There may be reasons for professionals to keep cobras, for the purposes of producing anti­venom but we can’t see any reason to keep one as a pet. Nevertheless there have been 9 licences issued for the keeping of them in the UK.

Before keeping any exotic pet, even those which aren’t on the dangerous animals list do your research. You need to be sure you can provide the habitat and diet your pet needs to keep it happy and in good health. It’s also wise to find out if there’s a local vet with the necessary knowledge to help your pet in the event of health problems.