An animal lover has been given permission to keep two pet lions and a puma in his garden, despite his neighbours airing their objections to the local council. No, this is NOT MALTA! If it were, all hell would break loose (right?)

Anyhow, Reece Oliver, 27, rescued two lion cubs, Rocky and Rora, from a circus in the Czech Republic in February and was keeping the big cats in a purpose-built enclosure at his home. He has also taken on a puma, named Rogue, which came from another keeper unable to continue to provide for the cat. Mr Oliver, from Strelley, Nottinghamshire, is licensed to keep wild animals and has the facilities to look after them.

But the council said he needed to apply for planning permission to keep the lions on the land behind his home When the news became apparent in the community, 14 residents objected.

As a result, planners recommended the committee at Broxtowe Borough Council reject Mr Oliver’s plans ahead of a meeting on Wednesday, in part because his home and garden sits within the area’s green belt. But a devastated Mr Oliver managed to successfully persuade the council committee the African lions would be put down if he didn’t get permission to keep them in his enclosure.

Man given permission to keep two pet lions at his home, despite neighbours’ objections
© Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

On Thursday, he won a decision to keep the animals by seven votes to five. He said to Nottingham Live: “It’s the best feeling in the world, it’s the best result ever. It’s aged me though. These last few weeks have been extremely stressful, but I know those animals would have had to have been put down.”

The cubs have been living in a specialised wild animals enclosure on land behind Mr Oliver’s home since he adopted them. Previously a stable yard, the 380sqm and 3.84m-high encased mesh enclosure is built on land officially registered as “equestrian”.

When the council found out, he was asked to apply for retrospective planning permission to change the use of the land to allow for big cats. Mr Oliver, a show jumper, said he didn’t realise he needed to apply to the council for planning permission to keep lions on his property.

Man given permission to keep two pet lions at his home, despite neighbours’ objections
© Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Ahead of the ruling, councillor David Watts said how unusual the request was. He said: “This is by far the most unusual application that we have dealt with in that time. I’ve been talking to Lib-Dem colleagues up and down the country and I haven’t come across anyone who has had an application like this before… I’ve done many things as a councillor but I never expected that being one would lead me to be sat in a quarantine cage stroking two lions.”

While people keeping big cats and other dangerous animals privately is relatively uncommon, there are allegedly more in the UK than you might think.

Animal rights charity Born Free mapped the number of big cats and other animals deemed unsafe as pets in 2018. In some parts of rural Britain, there are reportedly lions, tigers, puma, and venomous snakes in private hands.