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UK Big Cats History
During our studies into the Big Cats roaming free around the UK the main questions that we are always asked are:-
How did they get there?
During the stylish 1960's and 70's it was very fashionable and perfectly legal in the UK to keep exotic animals as household pets, these ranged from leopards, pumas and panthers to crocodiles and poisonous snakes. 

Anybody could legally own and keep them as pets, take them out for walks and keep them in the house without any kind of licence or any special training.

In 1976 the Government introduced the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to protect the public and ensure the animals we're looked after properly.  
When the bill came into force exotic pet owners we're only really faced with 3 choices.
 Get a licence and improve the facilities for looking after the animals incurring great expense.
 Give their pet to a zoo or authorized keeper of such animals.
 Have their pet put down.
Many owners gave their pets up to local zoos and wildlife parks, but with the amount of animals around the zoos and other establishments couldn't cope with the numbers, so some we're unfortunately put down.  A minority of owners who couldn't stand to see their pet put down, set them free to fend for themselves in the wild and this is how the majority of Big Cats got into the UK countryside, obviously there is the possibility of zoo and circus escapees but being released from captivity is the most recognized source for most of the Big Cats roaming the UK.
Due to a loop hole in the law, it was not illegal until 1981 to release a big cat into the UK countryside!  So many owners despite introducing a new non-native species didn't actually break the law, which does sound silly but the law was slack, it still is in some ways.  A legal owner of a Big Cat in the UK does not by law have to inform anyone if one of their animals escapes or dies, nor do they have to inform the Authorities if they breed in captivity, so the exact number of Big Cats in this country is very hard to say.
How can they survive?
Quite easily is the answer!  People always say how can they live in our climate, well they we're living in cages in peoples gardens before they we're released so they we're already prepared for the weather, as for food, when hungry a Big Cats natural hunting instinct would soon return and as it has so often been reported sheep and other many other livestock have been preyed upon, there are also plenty of deer, rabbits and other natural inhabitants in abundance in the UK for them to prey upon.  Remember we are not talking about thousands and thousands of animals that are out their, the exact number may never be known, but there is plenty of food to sustain a small population of Big Cats in the United Kingdom.
Are they dangerous?
Reports of attacks by wild big cats are very very rare in the UK, the most publicized one being on Saturday August 26th 2000, when 11 year old Josh Hopkins was clawed across the face in Trelleck, South Wales.  Josh was attacked after he went to pet the cat believing it to be his pet cat Sylvester!  The Cat was never found despite a huge search so it is really difficult to say whether it was a Big Cat or not.  In London a female European Lynx was caught in Cricklewood, North London on Friday 4th May 2001 after being spotted in a back garden, the Lynx which was injured was taken to London Zoo and is almost definitely a recently escaped pet that will never be claimed or confirmed as such as the owner may not have had a licence to keep it and so will never come forward.
How come they aren't seen more often?
Big Cat sightings in the UK do occur sometimes in regular batches other times they are quite rare, these cats had been kept in captivity against their will and once granted freedom it is our belief that they obviously do not want to be caged up again and so whenever they sense our presence they disappear off in the other direction.  This is a natural survival instinct and as we are not talking about a huge population of wild big cats the chances of them being seen are not that great to begin with.
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