A HEREFORDSHIRE woman is calling for tougher restrictions on trading and owning dangerous wild animals. 

For the past 15 years, Lindsay McKenna has run Wildside Exotic Rescue, a not-for-profit community interest company near Ross-on-Wye.

Hundreds of non-native wild animals that were kept as pets have been rescued and rehabilitated, including mountain lions, lynx, serval, meerkats, monkeys, capybara, racoons, racoon dogs and zebras.


"The majority of the animals living at WildSide come from domestic back gardens and houses, some of them seized by police, victims of abuse and neglect, and some donated by owners, who were unable to look after them," said Ms McKenna.

After spending 12 years involved in a project in a South African game reserve, Ms McKenna came across a wild animal that was in a poor situation in Cardiff.

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"I was unaware that the UK permitted domestic householders to keep a huge range of wild non-native animals with little legislation and protection," she said. 

"I am self-trained, via research and working alongside species experts. I work closely with our vets but now do all the husbandry, outside operations.

Hereford Times: A mountain lion at the rescue centreA mountain lion at the rescue centre (Image: Rob Davies)

"We also dart animals in preparation for operations or movement and are trained and firearm licensed for this." 

Ms McKenna said that Herefordshire appears to be no different than other counties.

Hereford Times: Lindsay McKenna with capybaras at Wildside Exotic RescueLindsay McKenna with capybaras at Wildside Exotic Rescue (Image: Rob Davies)

Hereford Times: Capybaras at Wildside Exotic RescueCapybaras at Wildside Exotic Rescue (Image: Rob Davies)

"Our animals come from all over England, Wales and Scotland," she said. 

"Given there is no formal record of non-native wild animal keeping - unless they are deemed dangerous, it is an estimate how many wild animals are caged and confined in houses and back gardens.

"We know where every cow is in England as we have a tightly monitored and transparent government-led tagging, passport and reporting system. But we do not know how many venomous snakes, or primates, or silver foxes etc are resident amongst us.

Hereford Times: Lindsay McKenna spends three hours a day feeding the animalsLindsay McKenna spends three hours a day feeding the animals (Image: Rob Davies)

"Even when a householder is totally welfare driven and the animal is well looked after, it can be very hard to find a vet who will treat a wild animal and if ever the owner has to re-home the animal, it can be an impossible task.

"You cannot drop off a lion or a racoon at a cat or dog rescue. So, the calls that WildSide frequently get are from owners or authorities desperate to source a new home as the alternative is euthanasia."