The East Belfast Assembly Member said: “It is a disgrace that there are currently more controls on keeping a dog, than on owning a dangerous wild animal in Northern Ireland. At the moment you do not need a licence to keep a cobra or a monkey as a pet.
“In 2003, I wrote to Tony Blair and one of the then Direct Rule Ministers, Angela Smith, demanding that they introduce legislation to control the ownership of exotic wild animals.
“I asked that they implement similar legislation to the Dangerous Animals Act, which has been in force in England for the past 30 years. I received a response stating that such laws would be introduced in Northern Ireland in 2004, yet they have still not been put in place today.
“The fact that no legislation exists in this area poses a risk to public health. If dangerous wild animals are kept unmonitored and in non-secure accommodation, they could escape and attack members of the public.
“This abhorrent lack of regulation also poses a danger to protected exotic animals. Many of these animals might be endangered species and may require specific levels of care. The issue of animal abuse, where animals cannot be properly looked, after must be addressed and the introduction of this legislation would do so.
“If there were adequate controls on the ownership of exotic pets, such as a register of animals, it would be easier to ascertain whether these animals are being cared for properly or not.
Naomi Long concluded: “This is another issue which illustrates how important it is that devolution is restored here as a matter of urgency. With devolution, we would be able to implement such legislation very quickly, to deal with the problems I have previously discussed.”