Chimpanzee Linda

No more lions, tigers and primates in Spanish circuses and homes

Spain’s first animal welfare law, approved today by the Congress of Deputies, is great news for many animals. At AAP, we especially welcome the ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and the development of a Positive List for suitable pets. These two pieces of legislation bring AAP’s goal of ending the suffering of exotic animals in Europe two big steps closer.


Until now, it was up to Spain’s autonomous regions to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. 12 of the 17 regions, in which over 80% of Spain’s population lives, had already banned performances with lions, elephants, primates and other wild animals. Many municipalities outside those regions also imposed local bans earlier. Still, this is very good news that prevents circuses with wild animals from continuing to travel to places where such acts are still allowed.

To achieve this milestone, AAP has been working with ANDA, FAADA and AnimaNaturalis in the InfoCircos coalition since 2015. “This law marks the end of InfoCircos,” says our Spanish Public Policy officer Marta Merchán, “we end this coalition with great gratitude and satisfaction that we have achieved what we set out to do: put an end to the old-fashioned and cruel practices under which so many animals have suffered in the past.”

Tiger Keni was rescued in very bad condition from a Spanish circus in 2018

Positive List

A Positive List is a preventive tool that assesses animal species for multiple risks. Only animal species that pose no threat to invasiveness, public safety, public health and animal welfare are listed as allowed pets. All other species are effectively banned from being kept by private owners.

“This is a great day for the welfare of exotic animals in Europe.” says AAP director David van Gennep. “We have been advocating the introduction of Positive Lists to curb the keeping, breeding and trading of exotic animals for years, both at national and European level. Hundreds of exotic animal species are simply not suitable as pets and their suffering must stop. When I see how many requests our rescue centres receive to take in animals, it clearly shows that existing measures do not offer a solution. A Positive List works preventively, which makes it much more effective than endless negative lists. Those are always one step behind the problem they are meant to solve.”

Spain joins a growing number of EU member states that have already opted for a positive list. Belgium was the first EU country to introduce such a list in 2001. This to the great satisfaction of the Belgian government and animal welfare organisations.

The establishment of an EU-wide Positive List is one of the ultimate goals of AAP.

Greater spot-nosed monkey Emare was left in a bird cage in a Spanish beach town

“We are very happy and grateful that our work in Spain is now bearing these amazing fruits. Together with our Spanish partners, helped by our loyal donors and parties like the National Postcode Lottery, we have been able to make real change. When we presented our plans in 2003, exotic animal welfare was no issue in Spain. That we opened our rescue centre in Villena six years later was a milestone, but that there is a national law turning our goals into reality now is at least as special.” Van Gennep looks back.

“We would have liked to see even more animals protected with this law, because bulls that have to fight and dogs used for hunting have been exempted. This is sad and means that other animal welfare organisations still have a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, we see today as a victory for animal welfare, because this law really prevents an incredible amount of animal suffering.”

Over the past 50 years, AAP has rescued countless wild and exotic animals from circuses, private owners and the illegal trade. In doing so, we strive for sustainable solutions while advocating for better legislation to end the terrible situations that lead to so many exotic animals needing to be rescued within Europe.

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