Animal welfare groups have raised concerns over the increasing number of people keeping dangerous animals as pets.

More than 100 councils have given people licences to keep deadly predators on their properties, including more than 300 killer cobras, vipers and rattlesnakes.

Big cats being kept as pets include 13 tigers, two lions, eight leopards, seven cheetahs and nine pumas; while there are also 10 alligators, nine crocodiles and 17 caimans (a smaller member of the crocodile family).

The RSPCA said it was worried that licences focused more on protecting the public from harm, rather than on the animals’ well-being.

A spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned about the number of exotic animals, including dangerous wild animals, now being kept as pets.

“People may buy them with little idea of how difficult they can be to keep and the animals are sometimes neglected when the novelty wears off and the commitment hits home.

“This is why we would encourage anyone thinking of getting an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they’re a realistic pet.”

She added: “Licences for exotic animals classed as Dangerous Wild Animals – such as cobras, ostriches and caiman crocodiles – are granted by local authorities and the details are also held locally.

“There is no centrally-held list to determine how many are kept across the country.

“Exotic animals have specialist needs and this includes the ones listed on the Dangerous Wild Animals Act list.”

The data was obtained using freedom of information requests to every council in the UK, to which 363 local authorities replied. In Northern Ireland the Environment Agency gave figures for the whole country.

The responses showed that the strange pets could be found in cities including London, Sheffield, Hull, Swansea and Portsmouth.

In Cornwall alone the council has given permission for the keeping of pumas, lynxes, ocelots, lemurs, vipers, ostriches and wild cats; while in Central Bedfordshire, there are wolves, alligators, caimans, black widow spiders and venomous snakes kept.