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Britain Toughens Pet Laws After N. Ireland Panther Sightings [12/11/2003]

Following a recent series of panther and puma sightings that have raised public concern in Northern Ireland, the British government has announced plans to crack down on the keeping of dangerous wild animals.

According to Northern Ireland office minister Angela Smith, owners will be required to secure a license from the Department of Environment in order to keep a wild animal as a pet.

This law will be similar to those in all other parts of the United Kingdom, which have been covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act since 1976.

†Licenses will only be issued where the DoE is satisfied that the animal can be kept securely and properly looked after,† Smith told Sky News.

The police and members of the USPCA have conducted a broad search of the North Antrim area where the wild cats were spotted.

Following the recent sightings, Smith revealed the launch of a 12-week consultation period to consider proposals to rigidify the legislation on the keeping of wild animals. The consultation period will conclude on January 12, 2004.

†I am pleased therefore to announce this consultation exercise on proposals for legislation which will introduce a regime similar to that operating in the rest of the UK,† she said to the Press Association's Dan McGinn.

The Government also stated that although a draft Order in Council was being prepared at Westminster for the spring of 2004, arrangements would be made to shift the legislation into an assembly bill should the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly take place.

In addition to the new legislation, Smith emphasized the importance of public accountability.

†There is also a need for common sense and social responsibility in this matter,† she said. †I find it both amazing and grossly irresponsible that someone would purchase a wild animal and then dump it into the wilderness - legislation or no legislation.†

© 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.

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