Sticker Tortoise Garden sanctuary given 24 hours

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Media captionThreat to 'reclassified' tortoises

A tortoise sanctuary in Cornwall has been told it has 24 hours to apply for a zoo licence or face closure.

Joy Bloor, who has run the Tortoise Garden, in Sticker, St Austell, for 20 years, said she could not afford to pay for a licence.

Council officers said tortoises were "wild animals" and needed to be covered by the licence.

They said that after Friday Mrs Bloor would be in breach of the law and could face prosecution.

'Really worried'

The zoo licence costs licensees £275 for the first four years.

On top of that, they have to pay fees for government-appointed inspectors to assess their site when they apply for a licence, along with any subsequent formal inspections.

Anyone found without a licence can be fined.

Mrs Bloor said the sanctuary, which houses about 400 tortoises whose owners have died or are no longer able to look after them, would be unable to meet the extra costs.

She said she already struggled to meet the £25,000 annual cost of caring for and feeding the animals and said she was "really worried" about the future.

'Moral promise'

Mrs Bloor said: "I'm going to have try and find other ways of raising funds to keep them.

"I've made them a moral promise that I will have them for life and I am going to keep that."

Allan Hampshire, Cornwall Council's head of public health and protection, said the authority had spoken to experts who considered tortoises to be "wild animals, in that they are not normally domesticated in this country".

Born Free Foundation chief executive Will Travers said not complying with the law was "unacceptable".

Mr Travers said: "Any facility that contains a specie or species that are not normally domesticated in the UK and is open to the public for seven of more days a year, paying or not, is technically required to be licensed as a zoo."

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