South Tyneside Council is one of more than 100 in the country who have given people licences to keep a dangerous animal.
The council has granted two Dangerous Wild Animal Licences – one Bengal cat and one Asian leopard cat – according to data from a Freedom of Information inquiry, which shows lions, wolves and venomous snakes are among thousands of dangerous animals being kept on private properties across the UK.
Big cats including 13 tigers, two lions, eight leopards, seven cheetahs and nine pumas are prowling behind the fences of addresses up and down the land, an investigation by the Press Association has found.
The RSPCA says it is concerned that licences too often focus on protecting the public from harm, rather than on the well-being of the animals themselves.
The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a small wild cat native to South and East Asia.
The Bengal is a domestic cat breed developed to look like exotic jungle cats such asleopards, ocelots, margays and clouded leopards.