Posted 20th March
The RSPCA has called for a ban on the sale of tanukis - otherwise known as raccoon dogs
The creatures are native to Japan, Siberia and China, but have already escaped into the wild in Britain - they are subsequently posing a threat to British wildlife.
There are now fears that the creatures, which are known to harbour high levels of parasites, could infect humans, causing lethal consequences in some cases.
The Government is taking "the threat of this species seriously" the Telegraph reported, and will be investigating any sightings of the creatures which are reported.
Conservationists are now fearing the tanukis could start to breed in the wild, causing a population explosion which would threaten weaker native species.
Talking to the Telegraph, Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA wildlife and exotic specialist, commented: "We know that some raccoon dogs are now living wild in Britain, and there is a risk that they could start to breed."
"We want the authorities to ban the sale of these animals as pets. They are simply not suitable, and they are escaping and getting out into the natural environment"
Tanukis may come from the canine family, but they actually bear more similarities to foxes due to their behaviour and scavenging habits.
The RSPCA is fearful that should nothing be done to tackle the problem, Britain could find itself facing a crisis similar to Sweden, where a specific hunting programme has been set up to cull them wherever they appear.
Parasites they carry include the fox tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis, which if untreated, can prove fatal if left untreated in humans, and has a silent incubation period of up to 20 years.
Per-Arne Åhlén leads the efforts in Sweden to eradicate them. Åhlén warned: "There’s a high risk that Great Britain already has an emerging population, and that, I can promise you, will not be good for its amphibian life."
"In an island country like the UK, you should do anything within your power to keep them out."
British owners will mistakenly consider their breed to be domesticated, but the reality, Dr Clubb explains, is different: "People might think 'I could just keep them in my living room and keep them as a dog but they're wild animals and need large areas and people just don't know how to look after them. They can be aggressive, some don't like to be handled or touched. They may run away or escape. It's a nightmare trying to re-home them - when we hear one has come in we all just sigh."
"People might think 'I could just keep them in my living room and keep them as a dog’, but they're wild animals and need large areas and people just don't know how to look after them."
Evidence is beginning to suggest more of the breed have been released into the wild - it is theorised that owners are unable to cope with their wild behaviour.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is a criminal offence to release them into the wild because they are considered an invasive species which is not native to the UK.
A Defra spokesman said: "There is no evidence of raccoon dogs being established in the UK. We take the threat of this species seriously and take swift action to investigate any reported sighting."
"It is important we take action to address the threats posed by invasive non-native species. They threaten the survival of our own plants and animals and cost the economy at least £1.8 billion a year."
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