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Back to Regulations Concerning the Private Possession of Big Cats

I.  Private Zoos

In Brazil, zoos are regulated by Law No. 7,173 of December 14, 1983.  Under this law, a zoo is defined as any collection of wild animals kept alive in captivity or semiliberty and exhibited to the public.[1]

To meet social, cultural, and scientific objectives, the federal government may maintain or authorize the installation and operation of zoos.[2]  The governments of the states, municipalities, and the Federal District may install and maintain zoos, provided that they comply with the requirements of Law No. 7,173.[3]  Exceptionally, zoos belonging to companies and individuals may be allowed to operate once the requirements of Law No. 7,173 and supplementary regulations are met.[4]

Pursuant to the terms of Law No. 7,173, on March 4, 2002, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renováveis—IBAMA)[5] issued Normative Instruction No. 04, which further regulates the registration of public or private zoos.[6] 

The Normative Instruction provides for three different categories of zoos[7] and the requirements for obtaining registration for each.[8]  The requirements include the minimum number of professional personnel on call, areas that must be dedicated for specific purposes, the measurement of cages for housing each category of species and the materials to be used, the nature of the water source for each species, the percentage of shade or sunlight to which the cages are exposed, security measures and procedures that must be adopted, and the establishment of escape routes.

Any accommodation that, while meeting the requirements of Normative Instruction No. 4, does not demonstrably provide for the physical and psychological well-being of one or more animals being housed may be closed by IBAMA, which entails the removal of the animal(s) from the enclosure.[9]

Noncompliance with the dispositions of Normative Instruction No. 4 may result in a warning, a fine, or the closing of the zoo.[10]

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II.  Trade in Wild Animals

Article 11 of Law No. 7,173[11] states that the acquisition or collection of animals coming from native fauna for zoos requires a previous license issued by IBAMA and compliance with the laws in force.

The importation of animals coming from foreign fauna to a zoo requires[12]

a)      compliance with article 4 of Law No. 5,197, of January 3, 1967;

b)      evidence of a health certificate provided by an accredited body in the country of origin;

c)      compliance with the quarantine requirements established by IBAMA;

d)      compliance with the legislation in force and the existing international commitments.

Article 4 of Law No. 5,197 of January 3, 1967 determines that no species can be introduced into the country without a favorable official technical opinion and a license issued in accordance with the law.[13]

Zoos must have a logbook for their faunal collection, fully endorsed by IBAMA and available to the public authorities for inspection, that includes all acquisitions, births, transfers, and deaths of animals, with annotation of origin and destination.[14]

Zoos are allowed to sell their duplicates of foreign fauna.  However, all transactions involving native species are prohibited.[15]  Exceptionally, and always subject to prior approval of IBAMA, surplus animals belonging to native fauna that have demonstrably been born in captivity, on the zoo premises, may be offered for sale.[16] 

Pursuant to the terms of article 16(§1) of Law No. 7,173, surplus animals belonging to native fauna that have demonstrably been born in captivity, on the zoo premises may be exchanged for surplus animals from similar institutions in the country and abroad.[17]

Additionally, Administrative Act (Portaria) No. 93, issued by IBAMA on July 7, 1998, regulates the import and export of live specimens, products and byproducts of native and exotic fauna.[18]  Any violation of the norms of the Act may result in administrative penalties, cancelation of the registration, license suspension, seizure of the products, and all other penalties foreseen in Laws No. 5,197 of January 3, 1967, 6,938 of August 31, 1981, and 9,605 of February 12, 1998.[19]

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III.  Keeping Large Wild Animals in Private Homes

The keeping of lions, tigers, bears, and primates, among other species, in captivity, by individuals, is regulated by Administrative Act (Portaria) No. 108, which was issued by IBAMA on October 6, 1994.  The act requires that a person register with IBAMA as a keeper of exotic fauna (Mantenedor de Fauna Silvestre Exótica).[20] 

To obtain the registration as a keeper of exotic fauna, a person must submit the following to IBAMA:[21]

  • a) an authorization to keep such animals issued by the state or municipal authority;
  • b) an IBAMA registration form;
  • c) the address where the animals will be kept;
  • d) the registration of the animals(as provided for on Annex I of the Administrative Act); and
  • e) sketches of the area and details of nurseries/enclosures that must comply with Normative Instruction No. 001/89-P of October 19, 1989 (Annex II).

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IV.  Requirements for Keeping Big Cats in Captivity

A keeper of exotic fauna must have the permanent assistance of at least one veterinarian, identify the sex, mark all the animals, perform an autopsy on animals that die, and record the autopsy information in the animal’s individual records.  The death must also be reported within ten days to the state office of IBAMA where the keeper is located.[22]

Renewal of the registration as a keeper of exotic fauna is dependent on the presentation of an annual report, which must be filed with the IBAMA Superintendent, according to the model in Annex III of the Act.[23] 

The government may inspect a keeper of exotic fauna at any time, and any violation of the Act immediately cancels his or her registration.[24]

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V.  Permission for Breeding

Normative Instruction No. 175, issued by IBAMA on June 11, 2008, prohibits the breeding of big exotic cats.[25]  Population control of big exotic cats must be maintained by means of vasectomy.[26]  If vasectomy is not viable for any reason, the keeper must submit to the Superintendent of IBAMA the appropriate records and a justification signed by a qualified professional.[27]

A zoo that wants to keep specimens of exotic big cats capable of reproducing must request authorization from IBAMA, presenting a justification containing the description of suitable premises to house the cubs when they reach adulthood.[28]

The trade in big exotic cats is restricted to transactions between zoos only;[29] the importation of big exotic cats is prohibited.[30]

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VI.  Licensing and Accreditation

On April 15, 1999, IBAMA issued Normative Instruction No. 1, which establishes the criteria for the environmental licensing of projects and activities involving the handling of exotic and native fauna in captivity.[31]

Under the Instruction, native fauna is defined as all animals belonging to native, migratory species, and any other animal, aquatic or terrestrial, all or part of whose life cycle occurs within the boundaries of the national territory or in Brazilian waters, with the exception of species subject to fishing.[32] 

Exotic fauna is defined as all animals belonging to species or subspecies whose geographic distribution does not include the national territory, and species or subspecies introduced naturally or by man, across the borders, including domestic animals in a wild state.[33]

Breeding is defined as the act that, under controlled conditions, promotes the reproduction in captivity of specimens belonging to native and exotic fauna that have their origin in nature or captivity.[34]  Rearing is defined as the act that, under controlled conditions of captivity, fosters growth, fattening, and finishing of specimens of native and exotic fauna that have their origin in nature or captivity.[35]

The criteria for environmental licensing of projects and activities involving the handling of exotic and native fauna in captivity is set according to different levels of risk or impact that the projects and activities pose to ecosystems, locally or regionally, in case the animals escape back to nature.[36]

The risk levels are defined as follows:[37]

I) low-risk—breeding and/or rearing activities of species of Brazilian fauna in their natural geographical distribution;

II) medium-risk—breeding and/or rearing activities of species of Brazilian fauna outside their natural geographic distribution;

III) high-risk activities—breeding and/or rearing activities of species of exotic fauna in the country, including by the keepers of exotic fauna who are regulated by Administrative Act No. 108, of October 6, 1994, and by circuses (see “Keeping Large Wild Animals in Private Homes” above).

Articles 6 and 7 of Normative Instruction No. 1 provides the documentation, procedures, and sketches that must be presented to IBAMA to obtain the licensing of projects and activities involving the handling of exotic and native fauna in captivity.

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VII.  Regulations and Penalties for Small Private Zoos

In addition to Law No. 7,173 of December 14, 1983, which regulates zoos in the country, Brazilian fauna is protected by Law No. 5,197 of January 3, 1967, which determines that animals of any species, in any phase of their development, that live naturally free and out of captivity and constitute native fauna, as well as their nests, shelters, and natural breeding habitats are government property.  It further prohibits their use, chase, destruction, hunting, or capture.[38]  Violation of the Brazilian Fauna Law constitutes a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.[39]

Law No. 9,605 (issued on February 12, 1998) defines crimes against the environment and their corresponding punishments.  Article 29 determines that to kill, chase, hunt, catch, or use native or migrating wildlife species without obtaining the proper permission, license, or authorization from the competent authority or in contradiction to it is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine.[40] 

The law also punishes an authority that becomes aware of criminal conduct in progress and does nothing to stop it.[41]  Such persons will be charged administratively and criminally according to the law.[42]

Decree No. 6,514 of July 22, 2008 defines violations against fauna, the respective administrative sanctions, and the corresponding federal administrative procedures. 

Violations against fauna include, among other things, killing, pursuing, hunting, catching, collecting, or using wild life species, native or migratory, without obtaining the proper permission, license, or authorization from the competent authority, or acting in a manner that is contrary to the authorization obtained.[43] 

Also considered violators against fauna are unauthorized breeders who, without obtaining the proper permission, license, or authorization from the competent authority, or acting in a manner that is contrary to the authorization obtained, sell, offer for sale, export or acquire, keep in captivity or storage, use or transport eggs, larvae, or specimens of wildlife species, native or migratory, as well as products and objects derived from them.

The fines for such violations vary from R$500,00 (US$250.00) to R$5.000,00 (US$2,500.00),[44] and are doubled if the offense is committed for the purpose of obtaining pecuniary advantage.[45]

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Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
June 2013

 

[1] Lei No. 7,173, de 14 de Dezembro de 1983, art. 1, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis/1980-1988/L7173.htm.

[2] Id. art. 2.

[3] Id. art. 2(§1).

[4] Id. art. 2(§2).

[5] IBAMA was created by Law No. 7,735 of February 22, 1989, as modified by Law No. 11.516 of August 28, 2007 (Lei No. 7,735, de 22 de Fevereiro de 1989, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis/L7735.htm, modificada pela Lei No. 11,516, de 28 de Agosto de 2007, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_Ato2007-2010/2007/Lei/L11516.htm#art5), as a federal agency subordinated to the Ministry of Environment, for the purpose of exercising environmental police power (art. 2(1)), and for executing actions in connection with national policies for the environment that are related to environmental licensing, environmental quality control, authorization for the use of natural resources, and the inspection, monitoring, and control of the environment, in accordance with the directives issued by the Ministry of the Environment (art. 2(II)). 

[6] Instrução Normativa No. 4, de 04 de Março de 2002, art. 1, Legislação, IBAMA, http://www.ibama.gov.br /documentos-fauna-silvestre/legislacao.

[7] Id. art. 2.

[8] Id. arts. 3–5.

[9] Id. art. 25.

[10] Id. art. 26.

[11] Article 11 of Law No. 7,173 determines that the license for the acquisition or collection of animals coming from native fauna for zoos should be issued by the Brazilian Institute of Forest Development (Instituto Brasileiro de Desenvolvimento Florestal—IBDF).  However, on February 14, 1989, IBDF was closed by Law No. 7,732 of February 14, 1989 (Lei No. 7,732 de 14 de Fevereiro de 1989, art. 2, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis /L7732.htm), and on February 22, 1989, Law No. 7,735 of February 22, 1989 created the IBAMA (art. 2), and the IBDF functions and personnel were transferred to the Institute (art. 4).  For the purpose of this report, the author uses IBAMA every time IBDF is mentioned in Law No. 7,173. 

[12] Lei No. 7,173, art. 12.

[13] Lei No. 5,197, de 3 de Janeiro de 1967, art. 4, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/L5197compilado.htm.

[14] Lei No. 7,173, art. 14.

[15] Id. art. 16.

[16] Id. art. 16(§1).

[17] Id. art. 16(§2).

[18] Portaria No. 93, de 6 de Julho de 1998, art. 1, Legislação, IBAMA, http://www.ibama.gov.br/documentos-fauna-silvestre/legislacao.

[19] Id. art. 35.

[20] Portaria No. 108, de 6 de Outubro de 1994, art. 1, Legislação, IBAMA, http://www.ibama.gov.br/documentos-fauna-silvestre/legislacao.

[21] Id. art. 1 (sole para.).

[22] Id. art. 2.

[23] Id. art. 4.

[24] Id. art. 5.

[25] Instrução Normativa No. 175, de 11 de Junho de 2008, art. 1, Legislação, IBAMA, http://www.ibama.gov.br /supes-es/legislacao.

[26] Id. art. 1(§1).

[27] Id. art. 1(§2).

[28] Id. art. 1(§3).

[29] Id. art. 4.

[30] Id. art. 5.

[31] Instrução Normativa No. 1, de 15 de Abril de 1999 (later renumbered Instrução Normativa 003/99), art. 1, Legislação, IBAMA, http://www.ibama.gov.br/documentos-fauna-silvestre/legislacao.

[32] Id. art. 2(I).

[33] Id. art. 2(II).

[34] Id. art. 2(III).

[35] Id. art. 2(IV).

[36] Id. art. 3.

[37] Id. art. 4.

[38] Lei No. 5,197, de 3 de Janeiro de 1967, arts. 1–3, 10.

[39] Id. art. 27.

[40] Lei No. 9,605 de 12 de Fevereiro de 1998, art. 29, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis/L9605.htm.

[41] Id. art. 2.

[42] Id. art. 3.

[43] Decreto No. 6,514, de 22 de Julho de 2008, art. 24, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_Ato2007-2010/2008 /Decreto/D6514.htm.

[44] Id. art. 24(I) & (II).

[45] Id. art. 24(§1).

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Last Updated: 09/16/2014