Somerset

'Dangerous' reptile 'dumped' in Chew Valley Lake

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Media captionA caiman is spotted walking by the lake

A potentially dangerous 2ft-long (60 cm) aquatic reptile has been found by a lake in Somerset and is thought to have been illegally dumped.

The RSPCA was called out to Chew Valley Lake on Friday to investigate reports of an alligator wandering about.

A specialist vet has since confirmed it is a spectacled caiman - a member of the crocodile family.

The RSPCA said it believed the animal had been kept illegally as a pet and could have inflicted a "nasty bite".

It is currently being cared for by the charity.

Animal welfare breach

RSPCA spokesman Chris James said: "It's lucky this caiman wasn't found by a child.

"Despite its size, this caiman could have given them a very nasty bite.

"That's why the law says that these kinds of animals can only be kept if a special licence has been obtained from the local authority."

Image copyright RSPCA
Image caption A specialist licence is required for keeping caimans in captivity in the UK

Mr James said the RSPCA strongly believed that caimans and other members of the crocodile family should not be kept as pets.

"The animal may grow very large, live for a long time, become aggressive and can be dangerous," he added.

He said two laws had potentially been breached with the abandonment of the animal - the Animal Welfare Act, which requires that an animal's needs must be met by the keeper, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act which prohibits the release on any non-native wild animal.

In addition he said he suspected the owner had breached the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, because no licence had been issued for the caiman.

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