Lions of lyon: wild animals as pets legislation


In March this year, a man was mauled to death by his pet lion. The man, from the Czech Republic, had kept the lion – as well as a lioness – in a cage in the back garden of his family home for three years.

Lions should never be kept as pets, but sadly many big cats are kept as pets by private individuals across the world. This is because legal restrictions on the trade and keeping of wild animals as pets vary significantly by country. Some countries have regional or national legislation governing the trade and keeping of wild animals as pets, while others have little or no specific legislation.

For example, in France – where the Lions of Lyon were all rescued from lives as pets – it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets. However, individuals can apply to keep wild animals under licence. In the UK, private owners can keep dangerous wild animals as pets under licence. A Born Free survey conducted in 2018 found 4,825 dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept privately in Great Britain – including about 250 dangerous wild cats.

Born Free opposes the keeping of all wild animals as pets, and the associated trade in live animals. That is why we continue to lobby the UK government for increased restrictions on the ownership of dangerous wild animals.

We also work to call for greater restrictions on keeping wild animals as pets in the EU. The EU is a top importer of tropical fish, reptiles, birds and mammals for the exotic pet trade, but despite this there is minimal legislation to protect their welfare and monitor trade.

Dr Chris Draper, Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity said: “Strict legislation coupled with effective enforcement are the necessary tools to stop the seemingly endless demand for wild animals as pets. While we work to put these measures in place, Born Free is also trying to help as many individual wild animals as possible have a chance at life free from exploitation as pets or in trade. Sadly, we can only help a few of the thousands of individuals affected, but those we can, such as the four lion cubs from France, will live out their days in proper care at our sanctuaries.”

You can help give all the Lions of Lyon a lifetime home in a safe and natural environment at our big cat sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa.