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How do you get a licence to keep exotic pets and can the animals be dangerous?

Over 15,000 calls were made to the RSPCA about exotic animals last year. Credit: PA

Last year the RSPCA received over 15,000 calls about exotic animals, from alligators to zebras the country is full of creatures that you would only expect to see in the zoo.

An ITV News investigation found out just how wild we are about keeping unusual pets.

But what are exotic animals and how do you get hold of one?

  • How exotic are we talking here?
Royal pythons are a popular pet but can grow to around 150cm. Credit: AP images

Although the term 'exotic' doesn't have a set definition, they are considered any animal that is unusual, wild and not native to Great Britain.

Reptiles are a popular choice for pet owners and according to the RSPCA, bearded dragons, corn snakes, royal pythons and leopard geckos are the most commonly kept types.

  • What licences do you need to keep exotic animals?
Animals like gorillas, wolves, bears and walruses need a licence to be kept. Credit: PA

Most licences to keep wild animals in England and Wales are issued by Defra.

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and 1984 means that every animal classed as 'wild' needs a licence from the local authority it is kept in.

This does not apply to zoos, circuses or licensed pet shops and costs vary from council to council.

You would need to register animals such as gorillas, wolves, bears, walruses and elephants - and find enough space in your back garden.

  • Can exotic pets be dangerous?
Marmosets are the most popular primate of choice according to the RSPCA. Credit: PA

Some animals in the UK are considered dangerous and if let loose could cause a panic.

The RSPCA rescued over 4,000 exotic animals last year - over 300 turtles, over 200 corn snakes and over a hundred bearded dragons.

Dangerous Wild Animals can only be kept if they create no risk to the public and the keeper safeguards the welfare of that animal.

Primates are considered a type of pet that can get aggressive with age, with marmosets the most popular species around.

According to 2014 a YouGov poll, 75% of people wanted a ban on keeping monkeys as pets.

  • Can you start your own zoo?
Starting your own zoo could take a fair amount of paperwork. Credit: PA

Under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 wild animals "not normally domesticated in Great Britain" can only be publicly displayed without a licence for a maximum of seven days within a 12-month period.

Species that are not considered "normally domesticated" include animals such as camels, reindeer and ostriches.

The government is clamping down on where wild animals can be shown and used.

A new law was announced this year that means from 2020 travelling circuses will be banned from using wild animals in England.