The keeping of wild animals in zoos

The European Union has adopted common minimum standards for housing and caring for animals in zoos with a view to reinforcing the role of zoos in conserving biodiversity.

Council Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos.

Many live animals in European zoos are not always kept under acceptable conditions.. It is therefore important to improve regulations concerning the keeping of animals in zoos to ensure the protection of wild fauna and the preservation of biodiversity while retaining a role in education of the public and scientific research.

“Zoos” are defined as all permanent establishments where live animals are kept, with a view to public display for seven days per year or more, with the exception of circuses and pet shops; also those establishments that the Member States exempt from the requirements of this Directive by virtue of the fact that they do not display a significant number of animals or species to the public and that this exemption does not undermine the objectives of this Directive.


The Directive aims to protect wild fauna and to preserve biodiversity by inviting Member States to take measures concerning the granting of licences and the carrying out of regular inspections in European zoos in order to check that the conditions related to the granting of licences are met.

In order to obtain an operating licence, zoos must:

  • participate in research whose results benefit the preservation of species and/or exchange of information on the conservation of species and/or reproduction in captivity, (repopulation, reintroduction of species to the wild, etc.);
  • educate and raise awareness of the public on the conservation of biodiversity (information on the species and their natural habitats);
  • keep animals in a manner that meets their biological needs and ensures the preservation of different species (providing species specific enclosures, suitable veterinary care, nutrition, etc.);
  • prevent certain animals from escaping and prevent intrusion of outside pests;
  • keep up-to-date records of the animals kept in the establishment appropriate to the species recorded.

All zoos must hold a four year licence following the entry into force of the Directive, or, in the case of new zoos, before opening to the public.

The competent authorities of the Member States will carry out an inspection before granting, refusing or extending a licence or modifying it substantially.

In the event of non-compliance with the legal requirements, the competent authority will bar public access to the zoo or to a part of the zoo.

In the event of closure of the zoo, even partially, the competent authority will see to it that the animals concerned will be treated or moved under conditions which the Member States judge appropriate and compatible with the provisions of the Directive.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 1999/22/EC 9.4.1999 9.4.2002 OJ L 94 of 9.4.1999

Ban on trade in cat and dog fur

The European Union (EU) bans trade in cat and dog fur, including imports and exports. It also introduces accompanying measures to ensure the effectiveness of this ban.

Regulation (EC) No 1523/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2007 banning the placing on the market and the import to, or export from, the Community of cat and dog fur, and products containing such fur.


The Regulation bans, from 31 December 2008, the placing on the market and the import to or export from the European Union (EU) of cat and dog fur and products containing such fur.

The ban may exceptionally be subject to derogations by the Commission, for educational or taxidermy purposes.

By 31 December 2008 the Member States must inform the Commission of the analytical methods they use to identify the species of origin of fur (e.g. MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry). The Commission may adopt measures establishing analytical methods to be used in this sphere.

By 31 December 2008 the Member States must lay down appropriate penalties to ensure that the ban is complied with and notify those provisions to the Commission.

By 31 December 2010 the Commission must report on the application of the Regulation.


The Treaty does not allow the Community to legislate on the basis of ethical concerns. That is why the proposal is based on the possibility, confirmed by consistent Court of Justice case-law, of adopting measures aimed at preventing obstacles that may affect the functioning of the Internal Market, in this case in the fur trade sector.

Several Member States have in fact already taken measures to restrict trade in cat and dog fur on their territory, forcing professionals in this sector to comply with different obligations depending on the country.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1523/2007 16.1.2008 OJ L 343, 27.12.2007


Council Directive 86/609/EEC of 24 November 1986 on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States regarding the

Protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes

Some disparities existed between the national laws in force for the protection of animals used for certain experimental purposes. These disparities had to be harmonised in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the common market.

This Directive applies to the use of animals for the following purposes:

  • the development, manufacture and quality, effectiveness and safety testing of drugs, foodstuffs and other substances or products:

in treating diseases or health problems in man, animals or plants;

in treating physiological conditions in man, animals or plants;

  • the protection of the natural environment in the interests of man or animal.

Each Member State must prohibit the use of endangered species for experimental purposes. The use of such animals may only be permitted in specific cases:

  • if the aim of the experiment/research in question is the preservation of the species concerned;
  • if this species seems to be the only one suitable for the biomedical purpose.

As far as the care and accommodation of animals is concerned, Member States must ensure that:

  • all animals are provided with hygienic living conditions;
  • any restriction on the animal’s normal behaviour is limited to the absolute minimum;
  • the physical conditions in which animals are kept are checked;
  • the well-being of the animal is observed by a competent person to prevent any suffering;
  • any unnecessary suffering is eliminated as soon as possible.

Each Member State must designate the authorities responsible for verifying that this Directive is implemented.

Where it is planned to subject an animal to an experiment in which it will, or may, experience pain which is likely to be prolonged, that experiment must be specifically declared and justified to, or specifically authorised by, the authority. The authority will take appropriate judicial or administrative action if it is not satisfied that the experiment is of sufficient importance for the essential needs of man or animal.

The authority in each Member State will collect and periodically make publicly available the following statistical information on the use of animals for experimental purposes:

  • the number and kinds of animals used in experiments;
  • the number of animals, by selected categories, used in experiments;
  • the number of animals, by selected categories, used in experiments required by legislation.

Member States are invited to inform the Commission of the measures taken in the area of the protection of animals used for certain experimental purposes and to provide a suitable summary of statistical information.

Experiments must only take place if there is no alternative method that does not entail the use of animals. Animals involved must be those with the lowest degree of neuro-physiological sensitivity.

Persons who carry out experiments or take part in them must be scientifically competent and have the appropriate education and training.

Breeding, supplier and user establishments must be approved by the competent authorities. Furthermore, these establishments must keep a record of all the details concerning the animals (the number and species of animals sold or supplied, the dates on which they are sold or supplied, the name and address of the recipient, etc.) for a minimum of three years.

User establishments must be designed in such a way as to allow optimum results to be obtained with the minimum degree of suffering for the animals.

Any animal taken to a breeding, supplier or user establishment must be provided with an identification mark in the least painful manner possible.

Animals used must be given a local or general anaesthetic. When an anaesthetic is not possible, analgesics may be given instead.

After an experiment, the animal must be given medical care aimed at its recovery. In the event that the well-being of the animal cannot be guaranteed, it must be killed by a humane method as soon as possible.

At the end of the experiment, the competent authority may decide to release the animal on the condition that this does not present a danger to public health or to the well-being of the animal.

In order to avoid any risk of duplication in experiments, Member States must accept to mutually recognise their scientific results.

The Member States and the Commission should encourage research in order to find other scientific methods that provide the same level of information without entailing the use or suffering of animals.

Directive 2003/65/EC

The technical annexes to Directive 86/609/EEC which include guidelines for accommodation and care of animals must be updated as the scientific data on which they are based is out of date. To facilitate the revision of the annexes, in place of the codecision procedure hitherto in force, this Directive introduces the regulatory committee procedure, which is far simpler and faster.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 86/609/EEC 28.11.1986 4.11.1989 OJ L 358 of 18.12.1986


Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2003/65/EC 16.9.2003 15.9.2004 OJ L 230 of 16.9.2003

Protection of certain seal species

This Directive lays down measures aiming to protect certain seal species by introducing legislation on a Community level to protect seal pups against non-traditional hunting.

Council Directive 83/129/EEC of 28 March 1983 concerning the importation into Member States of skins of certain seal pups and products derived therefrom [See amending acts].

The importation for commercial purposes of certain products of whitecoat pups or harp seals and of pups of hooded seals, or blue backs, is prohibited throughout the Community.

The targets are:

  • raw furskins and furskins, tanned or dressed, including furskins assembled in plates, crosses, bags, square and similar forms;
  • articles of these furskins.

This Directive does not apply to products resulting from traditional hunting by the Inuit people.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 83/129/EEC 01.10.1983 OJ L 91 of 09.04.1983


Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 89/370/EEC 15.06.1989 OJ L 163 of 14.06.1989


Council Regulation EC 338/97of 9.12.96 on trade in wild fauna and flora (EC) No 61/97 [Official Journal L 61 of 3 March 1997].
To conserve endangered species of wild fauna and flora, this Regulation controls trade in such species by imposing conditions on the importation, exportation or re-exportation thereof and on their movement within the European Union, in accordance with the CITES Convention.

Trade in seal products.

Following concerns expressed by citizens regarding seal hunting methods, this regulation harmonises existing national rules regarding the placing on the European Union (EU) market of seal products *.

The placing on the Union market of seal products is only allowed when they:

  • result from seal hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit * and other indigenous communities and contribute to their subsistence;
  • result from by-products of hunting that is regulated by national law, undertaken solely for the purpose of the sustainable management of marine resources. The placing on the market is only allowed on a non-profit basis.

The import of seal products for non-commercial reasons is allowed where it is of an occasional nature and consists exclusively of goods for the personal use of travellers or their families.

EU countries are responsible for laying down the rules on penalties for infringements of this regulation and must ensure an effective implementation of the applicable penalties.

Every four years EU countries must send a report to the Commission detailing the actions taken to implement this regulation.


The regulation supplements existing EU legislation regarding the protection of seals, in particular Directive 83/129/EEC prohibiting the importation into EU countries of skins of certain seal pups.

Animal welfare protection is an objective pursued by the Commission and is the focus of a Protocol annexed to the EC Treaty (Protocol No 33), which is at the heart of the Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals for the period 2006-2010.

Key terms of the Act
·         Seal: specimens of all species of pinnipeds.

·         Seal product: all products, either processed or unprocessed, deriving or obtained from seals, including meat, oil, blubber, organs, raw fur skins and fur skins, tanned or dressed, including fur skins assembled in plates, crosses and similar forms as well as articles made from seal fur skins.

·         Inuit: indigenous members of the Inuit homeland, namely those arctic and subarctic areas where Inuit have aboriginal rights and interests, recognised by Inuit as being members of their people.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 20.11.2009 OJ L 286 of 31.10.2009



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