Tigers, wolves, crocodiles and other exotic animals will be allowed to be kept as pets without regular checks in a shake-up of the law.

Ministers yesterday supported the change which means owners of exotic or fierce animals will no longer need an annual visit from a vet and council inspector.

The Government said updating the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 would cut red tape. But animal welfare experts warned that hundreds of exotic pets could suffer while the public would be left at increased risk.

The RSPCA said exotic animals needed yearly inspections by specialist vets to ensure they were being cared for properly.

At the moment, anyone keeping a wild creature in their home or garden must obtain an annual licence from their council after a visit from a vet and safety inspector.

Around 375 are issued each year, covering dozens of species. A report proposes extending these to two years and dropping the need for inspections each time a licence is renewed.

Existing licence holders could also buy more exotic animals without an inspection. Zoos, circuses and pet shops are not covered by the Act.