Animal associations

How Exotic Pet Ownership Rules Work in France

France allows the ownership of almost all types of animals provided that certain legal conditions are met, The connection was told by animal rights experts and dedicated training schools.

Owners need a ‘certification of ability‘, the legal document issued by local prefectures in order to be authorized to own non-domestic, exotic or wild animals. A ‘opening authorization‘ is required to be authorized to sell non-domestic, exotic or wild animals.

The legislation was brought to light after an animal rights association discovered two crocodiles and a caiman living in unsuitable conditions after its intervention in a house in Etréchy (Essonne).

Credit: Animal Protection Action

The house contained more than a hundred reptiles, one of which weighed 80 kilos.

The association was alerted to the situation by the owner’s wife at the end of 2020 when she reported that she was unable to manage the reptiles since the couple were going through a divorce and she was now living alone.

Credit: Animal Protection Action

In a separate case, a man pleaded guilty yesterday (September 5) in a trial relating to the illegal captivity of a month-and-a-half-old lion cub in 2017 in Noisy-Le-Sec (Seine Saint-Denis). He intended to use the animal for a rap music video.

Read more: Big cat’ captured in eastern France is a savannah cross

“Reptiles have really gone under the radar. No neighbor would have thought to live next to them,” said Arnauld Lhomme of Action Protection Animale (APA), the association which intervened at the Etréchy house.

The organization intervened on suspicion of unsuitable living conditions because the crocodiles and the caiman were housed in a basement with only artificial light. The owner said the reptiles were 45 years old and had lived in the house for 25 years.

The owner is known to authorities and has a recognized good reputation in reptile management, Lhomme said.

He had sometimes been entrusted with reptiles by the French Office for Biodiversity.

A crocodile has not been registered with legal authorities, Mr. Lhomme said.

The reptiles were transferred to a sanctuary center in Munich where they received treatment. A crocodile is paralyzed in both hind legs, Mr. Lhomme said.

The cub was transferred to a center in South Africa in 2017, said Mr Lhomme, who personally intervened while working for 40 Millions d’Amis, another French animal rights association.

The cub had been acquired through an illegal sale involving a circus company which had not registered the animal, he added.

“One of the strangest countries”

“It’s extremely rare [to have students taking non-domestic certificats de capacité]“, specifies Alexis Gonzalo, trainer in animal handling at the Campus Agronova school, specifying that 90% of the training courses given there are intended for domestic animals.

The certification of ability because such animals are more difficult to obtain because it requires a thorough knowledge of the species that the person wishes to possess.

It generally requires 70 hours of training covering medical, physiological and general knowledge before a file is presented to the Sites and Landscapes Commission for approval.

Anyone wishing to obtain the certification of ability must have worked in a business or organization dealing with the animal for at least three years, Mr. Gonzalo said.

The authorization to open is required if the owner intends to sell such animals.

While France has not officially legislated on the establishment of a positive list: an EU law restricting the possession of animals to around ten different species, the Ministry of Ecological Transition indicated that it had promulgated an animal abuse law in 2021 that contained such a measure.

The department was responding to a Senate bill to enact a civil servant positive list.

“We are one of the strangest countries [on animal-rights]. We try to cover the laws with capacity certificatesaid Mr. Lhomme.

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