100 deadly spiders including tarantulas and black widows were found in an abandoned home in County Carlow.
The frightening discovery was the latest in a string of incidents involving dangerous exotic animals being found in Ireland.
Kevin Cunningham, who runs the National Exotic Animal Sanctuary in County Meath, was contacted and asked to assess the dangers within the house of horrors. He said: “We received a call from Carlow about a gentleman who had vacated a house and left over 100 spiders behind.
“We had to go in with an expert, catalogue all the species and have the potentially lethal ones like the black widow and funnel-web spiders – which can kill you – destroyed.
“The man had bought the spiders over the internet and had them delivered to him and this is a growing problem that we are seeing here. Many of the spiders would just give a nasty bite but some like the funnel-web spider were a cause of concern.
“There were also dozens of dead spiders found around the room and postage boxes found on the premises, the spiders were posted from abroad. Imagine if they got out of the packaging while in transit.”
Wild animals can be traded freely in Ireland
There are no laws in Ireland preventing people owning exotic pets. The 1911 Animal Welfare Legislation allows citizens to freely trade wild and dangerous animals.
Cunningham urged the government to take action before the problem spirals out of control: “This is not an isolated case. In Britain and in Northern Ireland, they have the Wild Animal Act which requires the owners to have a licence if their animal is capable of inflicting any harm to a person or other animal.
“Technically you can keep a tiger in Ireland and you’re not breaking any laws. All around Ireland, there are people with tigers, bears and poisonous snakes as pets.
“The government needs to look at this problem now as more and more exotic animals become available for sale on the net. It’s been going on a long time and we need to put the brakes on.”
The National Exotic Animal Sanctuary also recently captured a raccoon, after it slipped into a woman’s car and sat in the passenger seat when she wasn’t looking in Tipperary. It had been bought as a pet but escaped from its owner’s property.
Cunningham explained: “Unfortunately we are seeing a lot more of raccoons being kept as pets and the government has now classed them as an invasive species because they are escaping into the wild and surviving. They’re not really trustworthy as pets as the tips of my fingers can attest to.”
The National Exotic Animal Society is a volunteer ran centre for unwanted pets. It currently houses several wild species including llamas, emus, snapper turtles and parrots.