In 1976, Great Britain passed the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA) to regulate the keeping of any kind of wild animals by private citizens. This includes some of the more than 2,000 known species of venomous snakes. The act outlines licensing requirements for individuals and lists what animals may be kept by those individuals once a license is granted.
Obtaining a License
The DWAA has a set of regulations for citizens that differ from those for zoos, circuses and pet shops. The act requires all private citizens wishing to own dangerous wild animals (DWA) to first obtain a license. Animals on the DWA list include crocodilians like gators and crocodiles, several species of lizards and snakes, many invertebrates (i.e., spiders), mammals, marsupials, primates, carnivores (e.g., wolves, big cats) and many species of birds. Private, licensed keepers are responsible for the care of the animal even if it escapes from its enclosure or when it is being shipped to another location. The act covers not only the welfare of the DWAs but the safety and welfare of the public.
Colubridae is the largest snake family, containing about two-thirds of all known snake species from around the world. Of these rear-fanged colubrids, most are nonvenomous. Some, however, carry a venom that is dangerous to humans. They have no pelvic girdle like the constrictors and their head is covered with platelike scales. The DWA list includes the boomslang, moila corn snake, mangrove snake, the red-necked keelback and the tiger snake from this family.
Snakes in the Elapidae family are front-fanged, highly venomous and are found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. They inject a neurotoxic venom through their hollow fixed fangs that attacks the respiratory and central nervous systems of their victims. These snakes generally have long, thin bodies with smooth scales. They're efficient hunters, using an ambush hunting style to envenomate and capture their prey. Elapidae snakes on the DWA list include cobras, coral snakes, black mambas and all the poisonous snakes from Australia (i.e., death adder).
Snakes in the viperidae, or viper, family are front-fanged and venomous. Their fangs can be folded back along the top of the mouth, facing inward when the snake's mouth is closed. Viperidae snakes have heavy bodies and use the ambush style of hunting for prey. Some also use heat-sensing pits to aid in hunting prey. Viperidae on the DWA list include copperhead, water moccasins, rattlesnakes, vipers and puff adders.