So you are wondering how we have come to own such beautiful cats and wondered where to start, whilst you give the idea of exotic cat or dangerous wild animal licenced cat ownership very careful consideration…
We receive many questions on a daily basis on how to obtain these animals and if they are all as wonderfully tame as they are in our videos which we post regularly on social media. I decided to write this small article as a rough guide to cover these questions and explain reasons behind my answers. I will also discuss the breeding aspect of these animals very lightly.
I will refer to the “DWA”, and the, “DWAA” throughout and these abbreviate the “Dangerous Wild Animal” and “Dangerous Wild Animal Act”.
Any animal considered not to be domesticated falls into the DWA category in the United Kingdom. You will find that parts of the world have different rules and do not even licence some wild cats for private ownership. In some countries not only wild cat ownership, but hybrid ownership is banned altogether. I would suggest that before deciding to really research private exotic cat ownership, whether this be a hybrid or full wild cat, please do check your local laws depending on which state or country you are in. This is primarily aimed at the UK DWAA, but can be used as a guideline or part of your research on wild cat ownership anywhere in the world as I hope it can give you some useful information.
The Dangerous Wild Animals Act was first produced in 1976 and amended in 2010. The purpose of the act was to prevent incompetent ownership of the larger species which were widely available around the time of the Act’s compilation. Do not get me wrong, there are still a number of private owners in the UK with leopards, pumas, cheetahs, tigers and other larger species but they are licenced and inspected annually/ bi-annually to ensure the welfare of the animal is being prioritised.
There are no different rules in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales or England.
What is the requirements of a DWA Licence and how do I find out more?
Firstly, there are no physical national requirements on enclosure sizes, materials, lighting, heating or design structure. The answer is simply- speak to your local council animal welfare officer. Each individual council or county has their own requirements on what they feel meets the DWAA compliance for them to issue you with a licence.
I will give you an example of 4 different wild cat owners enclosure types and they all have DWA Licences:
NOTE: the comfort rating and security rating is a personal opinion and is not issued by a council. The rating is inserted to help potential DWA cats keepers to understand the difference that enclosures can make to the life of the animals in their care.
Who enforces the DWAA?
Your local council holds full responsibility to enforce the DWAA and issue or refuse to issue licences to Dangerous Wild Animal keepers.
It is worth noting that you must apply for a DWA licence before you obtain your animal you intend to keep on your premises.
Most councils have application forms for a DWA licence so by asking for one well in advance, you will have an insight into what information the council will require from you. It may also be worth speaking to your council DWA officer to gain the contact details of the Veterinary Surgeon who will be inspecting your enclosure. You can then contact her/ him directly and discuss any concerns or recommendations they may have well before you start your building project.
It is worth remembering that there are a few requirements that must be met to adhere to the act and this is what the council is there to enforce under the act.
What are the basic requirements of a DWA Licence?
The council will check to ensure that:
Your animal is not likely to cause nuisance to neighbours through noise or smell for example,
You have a current public liability insurance policy to cover the animal,
You fully understand what the animal is required to eat and your proposed food is adequate,
You fully understand the characteristics of the animal inclusive of exercise requirements,
Your animal can exercise and move freely within the enclosure proposed,
Your enclosure is constructed of good materials (to keep the animal secure) although each council has different ideas on what is secure or not,
Fire Extinguisher and you can operate it,
Dedicated Veterinary Surgeon for the animal,
Vaccination Procedures (how will the animal be annually protected and will the vet come to you),
Heating is adequate for the animal to be comfortable in all weathers,
Accommodation will be dry and ventilated if required,
Accommodation will have adequate entry/ exit procedures i.e. double or triple door system.
If you are trying to licence your home, you must have secure provisions installed such as:
Self-close door systems,
Secure entry systems where the animal can be accessed i.e. key/ pin code,
Adequate sanitary provision,
Animal carriers for emergency vacate,
Appropriate meat storage (raw meat & chicks etc),
It may be worth thinking thoroughly through your escape procedures very thoroughly as some councils may not grant a licence on the basis of poor enclosure structure or lack of knowledge. We have a gamekeeper in the local area who has been allocated an emergency position in case of escape and we are unable to capture. The purpose of this is to ensure that there is no threat to the public. It is then down to the individual licensee to ensure that they never have to make that call…
If a licence will be issued, it will include the following:
How many animals are covered on the licence and what species,
Where the animals will be kept,
The address of the property,
The persons licenced to keep the animals (this usually ties in with public liability insurance too so do make sure you have all the names of the people you require to be in contact with the animal on the licence).
If the applicant is over the age of 18 years and has been previously disqualified from keeping DWA animals,
A police check for all persons named on the licence,
Any restrictions placed on the licence i.e. number of DWA kittens allowed on premises and age they should be moved from the home DWA out into the main enclosures. It will also detail the moving of the animals and that this should be done in appropriate, secure carriers.
A fee payable to the council to cover vet visits and administration, usually around £200 - £300 depending on the area you live.
If I plan to breed DWA’s – what happens when another one comes for breeding?
Call your council well in advance to notify them and ensure they add the cat on to your licence. Councils have the right to discretion and as this is a temporary situation you will be able to add on the animal for a short period.
Do I really need a licence? How would anyone know any different?
Power to seize
Firstly, we do not trade any animals under the DWA to non-DWA holders. Please do not ask us as we will not risk the safety of our animals.
We have exceptionally high-standards in our facility and if you are not deemed competent by the local authority in your area, then we will not undermine this decision, or overrule and give you a cat anyway.
“But I’m about to build an enclosure” “I’m just waiting on my inspection” “I’ll build the enclosure before the kitten gets big” “It’s only the one cat, so I don’t think I really need an enclosure”
If you would like a kitten from us which requires a DWA licence then please provide us with a copy of your licence that has already been granted.
NOTE: Where an animal is being kept contrary to the section 1 (1) of the DWAA (held without a licence when it requires a licence) or any condition of your DWA licence is contravened/ you are non-compliant, the council may seize your animal.
The council can hold on to it, rehome it, destroy it or whatever they decide and they NOT liable to pay any compensation for the animal to the owner. Not only do they not need to compensate the owner but they can also charge fees for uplifting the animal and doing what they have decided to do with it. This debt is recoverable through court.
I find it difficult to encounter the wild cats which I would like to own…why is everyone so protective?
You need to work for trust. Network. Visit places if people will allow you to. If breeders of the animal you want to keep are being secretive, ask yourself why. It can be difficult to source if wild cats are inbred or not without being in contact with other people who have bought cats from the person you decide to buy from. If you genuinely want to purchase a wild cat or F1 hybrid then ask breeders if you can spend some time with the breeds they have, stating your genuine interest in purchasing one. Some breeders may even accept volunteers, but be sure that they have adequate insurance to cover others in with their DWA animals. To explain this further, one of our insurance policies only covers those named on the licence, so we have had to take out a further policy to cover those who are not named. By having two, we can change the amount of liability and the type of contact with the animals.
What cats are covered under the DWAA?
A selection – (remember if it is not considered domestic, then a licence is applicable): Bobcat Caracal Cheetah Jaguar Lion Lynx Ocelot Puma Serval Tiger
If I have an enclosure built and a DWA licence granted, can I bring the animal in the house?
No. Not unless you have your house or more specifically an area of the house dedicated to DWA animals. This is not easily attainable but is achievable through time and knowledge.
What’s the point is keeping a DWA animal outside in an enclosure all the time? I want a DWA pet.
A dangerous wild animal licence covers you for animals that are not “pets”. The term pet is part of the reason why the act was introduced. The fact that these animals are not domesticated means that they are not well-suited to houses or the domestic lifestyle. It is often that these animals will not use a litter tray or play with something that was a much cherished possession of their owners. DWA cats are quicker, smarter, more agile and can give bigger bites than your average domestic cat – they need to be kept secure not only for public safety, but for their own.
If you decide to bring your cat in and it escapes, you will have to put your emergency procedures into place and you could lose your cat and your licence. If you really want your DWA cat in the house, plan carefully and have it onto your licence.
What if I get a wild cat and I am scared of it?
It is natural to be unsure about any animal which you haven’t met before. If you have bought a DWA cat then you must have it transported in a DEFRA-approved vehicle which means it’s suitable for transporting a DWA animal. It is worth getting your own transport approved for this. The travel tends to either completely upset an animal or they breeze through it not even noticing the travel. Give them a quiet room when they come home, but don’t leave them alone. Work with your animal right from the beginning. If your cat has been raised properly then it should be well-socialised and outgoing. Some cats can be shy and will take a few days to come round – but not longer.
If you have not owned a hybrid of these animals, it would be worth doing so before taking on a wild cat. In all honesty, an F2 will only give you a slight indication of the temperament of the wild animal in their ancestry. By F2 there is likely to be around 25% wild genetics (2nd generation) from the wild cat, which is, in wild cat terms, huge dilution. The best thing you can do before making the decision is to get experience. Hopefully you will have taken a long time to consider the DWA cat you have purchased and worked so hard for your licence for. DWA ownership is not for those who are out at work all day as they need regular interaction come rain or shine. If you have a DWA cat and decide that it really isn’t for you after trying your best then it is always likely that the breeder will take the cat back (no refund) and you should always ask them in the first instance should you decide to part with the animal.
We are currently going through a long process of setting up a non-profit charity in the UK to help with rescue/ rehoming of DWA cats only as more of them come into ownership in the UK and many often sold to un-licenced or unsuitable homes. Should you decide not to speak with the breeder for personal reasons then please contact us for advice.
Are most wild cats like yours in the videos? Can I feed them from my hands? Aren’t they aggressive?
I wish I could say they were. Every cat has their own individual temperament but you need to allow enough time when every cat you receive is new to have them imprint on you. Here at Stylisticat, I am the main carer. I am here 24/7 and spend an extensive amount of time with the cats to ensure that they know who is the most trusted person they can rely on. It has been often asked how I have molded them to be so loving when other struggle to get them to come when called or to pet their DWA cats. Some are flabbergasted that I have a serval cuddling on my knee, cleaning my face. It has not come easily and I have had to work so hard for the trust and love that I am given. I always say to people that you reap what you sow. My cats are all affectionate on their terms. The larger wild cats we have here will hiss at visitors who approach the enclosure. Once they get to know them a bit better they will rub themselves along the fence to try and scent the person and show affection. Always be persistent with animals, similar to small children. Do not reward naughty behaviour but do not ignore it either. When wild cats are small they play with their mouths. You may have to wear gloves initially until the training period is over and you and your cat have a behavioural understanding where possible. Some cats do not ever become, ‘safe’, to work with. Bear that in mind. Even my most loving cats can bite or scratch when they want/ do not want something and it’s certainly not just your average nip of the skin. You may get puncture wounds in your skin through play. This can be difficult to get used to initially and is not enjoyable but always have a toy to hand so that you can divert attention and show praise for playing with toys and not human skin. I would never advise playing with any DWA cat of a larger size. There is a great difference for example in the way that I play with Servals than the way I play with caracals! A lot goes on behind the scenes in any DWA Licenced keeper where there are a number of cats – great and no so great things. It’s only natural. If you have any questions feel free to ask.
There are loads for sale overseas – how do I import one?
Any animal imported may be covered by CITES Licences you can contact CITES here. Any animal which is covered under a DWA licence i.e. a full wild animal or F1 hybrid cannot travel under the Pet Passport Scheme into the UK. You will be required to obtain an Import Licence from APHA/ DEFRA - Go to DEFRA. You will be required to quarantine the animal for 4 months in England and 3 months in Scotland within a DEFRA-approved quarantine facility. The facility will have a quarantine licence and must also obtain a DWA to accept your animal.
This page will be updated as more questions are asked to be answered!