Public policy

Helping as many animals as possible
by tackling the causes.

Tackling causes

At AAP we want to help as many animals as possible. Of course we help the animals in need by taking them in, but just taking them in is not enough. You can only really prevent animal suffering by tackling the causes.

And that is why we advocate better laws and regulations throughout Europe. We do this in the individual EU countries and at European level in the European Parliament, because transnational problems require transnational solutions!

We are trying to find solutions for:

Serval Xirus did not receive the correct care as a pet
Chimpanzee Linda was smuggled out of the wild
Lion Govani was seriously neglected in a circus

How we operate

At AAP we have been taking in exotic mammals from all over Europe since 1972. All this time we have seen exactly where the current laws and regulations fall short and what disastrous consequences this has for the animals, but also for society. AAP brings these insights to the attention of policy makers and politicians at home and abroad.

We do this in various ways. For example, we give presentations to members of the European Parliament and senior EU officials and we advise various working groups in EU countries that want to improve animal welfare laws and regulations.

By sharing our insights and experience, we are able to explain and demonstrate why better legislation is so badly needed!
AAP director David van Gennep during a conference in Brussels.

What we want to achieve

Our commitment to better laws and regulations is having an effect. For example, in 2015 we succeeded in banning exotic animals in circuses in the Netherlands. Almost all EU countries now have such bans in place, so we are now working on the very last step: one ban for the whole EU. Several EU countries have already succeeded in regulating the exotic pet trade with the positive list. A good start, which we would like to extend to the rest of Europe.

Questions & answers - Public Policy

In every EU country a ban on wild animals in entertainment is important, because it prevents a lot of animal suffering and also protects public safety. A number of EU countries, including Germany, do not yet have a ban. It is very important that Germany also imposes this ban, because the circus industry there is large. There are 75 German circuses operating with more than 150 wild animals, and other European circuses with wild animals are also still welcome to perform in Germany. Also, by far the most incidents involving wild circus animals happen in Germany. Between 1995 and 2019, no fewer than 202 incidents were reported there, involving 437 wild circus animals. In addition, Germany is a significant country within the European Union. With their support for the ban, we can also more easily reach our final goal: an EU ban on wild animals in circuses.

In addition to our commitment to ending the use of wild animals in circuses across Europe, we also speak out against the use of wild animals in other forms of entertainment, such as in movies, TV shows, commercials and on social media. For example, we call on TV channels not to use wild animals and confront Dutch celebrities when they have their picture taken with a wild animal. Every summer we also organize an ‘animal friendly travel’ campaign together with World Animal Protection and the SPOTS Foundation. In this way we make travelers aware of the suffering that lies behind tourist attractions with wild animals and we call on them to be extra vigilant.

Of the animals trafficked globally for their body parts, the pangolin is the most illegally trafficked species. In the past decade, an estimated 1 million pangolins have been poached for the illegal trafficking in their scales and body parts. Live endangered mammals also continue to be illegally trafficked and seized in Europe. For example, Barbary apes, white ear marmosets, tigers, caracals or pumas. It is very difficult to give exact numbers of illegally trafficked live animals. This is because the official figures of seizures in existing databases are not always complete or correctly entered, and because it is very likely that not all illegally trafficked animals are actually traced and seized.

The Barbary macaque, which is threatened with extinction, was for years the most confiscated mammal in the EU and also the illegally trafficked species that we saw most often in our rescue center. Because of this illegal trafficking, among other things, the number of Barbary macaques in the wild decreased dramatically. There are still less than 10,000 Barbary apes living in the wild, whereas in 1977 there were about 23,000. Fortunately, in 2016 we succeeded in giving the Barbary macaque the highest possible protection status within the CITES convention that regulates the international trade in endangered animal and plant species. Since then, we have been working within the Born to be Wild project to consolidate enforcement against the illegal trafficking in these animals. We do this by, among other things, organizing anti-poaching patrols in Ifrane National Park, where the last wild Barbary macaques live, and by training enforcement authorities.

Dutch law states (since 1992) that only species listed on the positive list may be kept as pets. Only the actual list had yet to be developed. In 2015, the positive list of permitted mammalian species came into effect for the first time, but in 2017 the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal ruled that this list had not been created sufficiently independent, transparent, verifiable and expert way. It could therefore no longer be used. The problem lay not with the Positive List as an instrument, which had already been declared legally valid by the European Court of Justice, but with the way in which the drafting procedure had been organized. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has therefore been working since 2017 on a new positive list for mammals, according to a completely independent realization procedure and with a completely new assessment system. This process is currently in the completion phase. We expect this new positive list to come into effect in 2022.

The regulations regarding which animal species may be traded or kept as pets are vastly different in each EU country. For example, in the Netherlands it is forbidden to keep lions or monkeys as pets, while in Germany you are free to keep these animals if you observe the pertinent regulations.

EU countries with a positive list allow only those species that are safe and suitable to keep as pets, which is very effective, efficient and transparent. But most EU countries still work with negative lists, which only list a few prohibited species and allow all other animals to be traded and kept freely. These lists differ from country to country and only work reactively, not preventively.

The Netherlands is currently working on a positive list of permitted mammal species. Until the list comes into effect almost all mammals are still allowed to be kept as pets. However there is an obligation to report the purchase of exotic mammals which are not yet on the list of mammals known to be kept in the Netherlands. A number of mammal species are already prohibited in the Netherlands under existing nature conservation legislation. These include all primate species, wild felines, and invasive alien species, such as raccoons, raccoon dogs and Pallas’ squirrels. For a complete list of prohibited species, see ‘Other Animals for Sale’.

When it comes to animal welfare violations, law enforcement authorities have various administrative law and criminal law options. In most cases, administrative law enforcement is used. Examples are a written warning, an administrative fine, or taking the animal into custody. There is also the possibility of applying criminal sanctions. For example, the Public Prosecutor can decide to confiscate an animal or the criminal court can impose a ban on holding the animal. Which measure is applied depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Illegal possession of a wild animal (violation of the Nature Protection Act) can also be prosecuted under both administrative and criminal law. Again, the measure applied depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. These are choices made by law enforcement authorities on which we as AAP have no influence. AAP acts as a solution partner by offering temporary shelter to animals seized by law enforcement authorities.