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Back to Regulations Concerning the Private Possession of Big Cats

I.  Overview

According to a government report, as of 2002 Norway had eleven large and small zoos that kept wild animals; six aquariums of which three also had seals, penguins, and other warm-blooded animals; and twenty-three other establishments that held a small number of animals, often common pets.[1]

Norway’s Parliament adopted a new Animal Welfare Act that entered into force on January 1, 2010.[2]  Section 22 of the Act stipulates, “animals can only be kept if they can adapt to the method of keeping in a satisfactory way with regard to animal welfare.”[3]  Section 22 further authorizes the King of Norway to issue specific regulations to limit or ban the keeping of certain animal species, breeds, or strains.[4]  The Act also obligates the animal keeper to ensure an environment consistent with the animal’s good welfare;[5] good attention, care, and feeding of the animal, and suitable tameness of the creature to allow for acceptable care;[6] and breeding that encourages positive characteristics of the animal.[7]  The Act stipulates in addition that anyone who sells or transfers animals to another person must provide that person with the necessary information regarding the animal’s welfare, and authorizes the King to issue specific regulations on the import, export, trading, re-homing, and loan of animals, among other activities, including the issuance of a ban against such activities.[8]

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet, FSA) is responsible for controlling all matters related to animal health and welfare.[9]  The Norwegian Animal Research Authority (Utvalg for forsøk med dyr (Forsøksdyrutvalget)) is responsible for animal research.[10]

Norway is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), having ratified the Convention on July 27, 1976.  The treaty entered into force in Norway on October 25 of the same year.[11]  Regulations on the implementation of the Convention in Norway were issued in 2002 and entered into force on January 1, 2003.[12]  Norway is also a party to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats[13] and the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.[14]

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II.  Regulations on Exotic Animals

Section 22, paragraph 2, of the Animal Welfare Act, on authorizing the issuance of specific regulations to limit or ban the keeping of certain animal species, breeds, or strains, along with section 27 on the trading of animals, provide for the continuation of the Regulations Prohibiting Alien (Exotic) Animals to be Imported, Sold, or Kept as Livestock, Pets, or Otherwise in Captivity.[15]  The Regulations make it illegal to import, sell, purchase, give away, receive, or keep as livestock, pets, or otherwise in captivity alien (exotic) mammals, reptiles, amphibians, frogs, and newts.[16]  If there is doubt as to which animals fall under this ban, the FSA will make a determination.[17] 

However, the Regulations state in section 1 that certain animals may be exempt from the ban and refer to section 15, on the prohibition against exhibiting animals in public, of the former Animal Protection Act.[18]  Section 15 states as follows:

Animals other than fish must not be exhibited in public, including public exhibition for advertising purposes or decoration.  This ban does not apply to the showing of pets or livestock in connection with breed improvement.

The Ministry may, subject to certain conditions, grant exemption from this ban against the showing of animals. Applications for permission to exhibit animals in zoos, bird parks, and the like, shall be accompanied by detailed plans of the entire exhibition site and its operation, and adequate details of the economic basis for the implementation of the plans.[19]

Moreover, section 2 of the Regulations authorizes the FSA to grant exemptions from the prohibition set forth in section 1 “in special cases” and to determine the conditions for exemption.

The FSA and Norway’s Directorate for Nature Management have prepared a list of species that have traditionally been kept as domestic pets in Norway and should not be considered as wild animals in connection with the import application process.  Animals on the list can reportedly be freely imported under the provisions of the Wildlife Act, although an import application is still required.  It is therefore legal, on the basis of the list, to sell certain animals that may have been considered alien or exotic, e.g., rodents such as hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.[20]  The Norwegian government recently decided to retain a thirty-seven-year-old ban on reptile and amphibian keeping and trading, rejecting a proposal from exotic animal keepers and wildlife dealers to allow trade in a limited number of species.[21]

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III.  Punishment for Violation of Animal Welfare Provisions

The Animal Welfare Act provides that an intentional or grossly negligent violation of the requirements in or under the Act’s provisions or of decisions issued under it is punishable with fines or with a prison term of up to one year, or both, if the offense is not subject to more severe penal provisions.  The same punishment applies to aiding and abetting such acts.[22]  “Serious violations” may be subject to a punishment of imprisonment for up to three years, with the scale and effect of the violation and the degree of culpability to be taken into account in determining the seriousness of the violation.[23]

The FSA may order animals imported or attempted to be imported in violation of the Regulations’ provisions to be returned or euthanized at the importer’s expense, without compensation from the public.[24]

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Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst
June 2013


[1] Landbruks- og matdepartementet [Ministry of Agriculture and Food], Om dyrehold og dyrevelferd [On Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare], Report No. 12 (2002–2003), /stmeld/20022003/stmeld-nr-12-2002-2003-.html?id=196533.

[2] Lov om dyrevelferd, LOV-2009-06-19-97 (in force Jan. 1, 2010), LOVDATA,; Animal Welfare Act (July 10, 2009),, /doc/laws/Acts/animal-welfare-act.html?id=571188 (last visited June 3, 2013).  See also Norwegian Animal Welfare Act [summary plus text of the Act in English, with link to Norwegian text], Animal Legal and Historical Center (Michigan State University College of Law), (last checked by staff Aug. 2011). 

[3] Animal Welfare Act § 22, ¶ 1.

[4] Id. ¶ 2.

[5] Id. § 23, ¶ 1.

[6] Id. § 24, ¶ 1.

[7] Id. § 25, ¶ 1.

[8] Id. § 27, ¶¶ 1 & 2.

[9] Carlos G. das Neves, Animal Experiments in Field Conditions, Lab Vs. Field Wild Animals for Scientific Experiments (Course in Laboratory Animal Science, Bergen, Mar. 2012), LECTURE%20BERGEN%20DAS%20NEVES%202012pdf.pdf.

[10] Adrian Smith, Legislation (contd.), NORECOPA, (last updated Apr. 15, 2013).

[11] Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mar. 3, 1973, 27 U.S.T. 1087, T.I.A.S. 8249, 993 U.N.T.S. 243, text.php, as amended, June 1, 1979, T.I.A.S. 11079, and Apr. 30, 1983, http://www.cites. org/eng/disc/gaborone.php (Gaborone Amendment); List of Contracting Parties, CITES, (last visited June 3, 2013).

[12] FOR 2002-11-15 nr 1276: Forskrift til gjennomføring av konvensjon 3. mars 1973 om internasjonal handel med truede arter av vill flora og fauna (CITES) [Regulations for the Implementation of the Convention of 3 March 1973 on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)], LOVDATA, http://www.lovdata .no/for/sf/ud/xd-20021115-1276.html.  At the end of the text of these regulations there is a link to a brochure on endangered species on the 2010 CITES list, most in Norwegian but with the names of the species in English as well.

[13] For the list of Member States, see Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Sept. 19, 1979, in force on June 1, 1982, CETS No.:104, asp?NT=104&CM=8&DF=&CL=ENG.  Norway ratified the Convention on May 27, 1986; it entered into force in the country on Sept. 1, 1986.

[14] For the list of Member States, see European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, Nov. 13, 1987, in force on May 1, 1992, CETS No.: 125, &CL=ENG.  Norway ratified the Convention on Feb. 3, 1988; it entered into force in the country on May 1, 1992.  Id.  The Convention defines “pet animal” as “any animal kept or intended to be kept by man in particular in his household for private enjoyment and companionship” and “animal sanctuary” as “a non-profit making establishment where pet animals may be kept in substantial numbers.  If national legislative and/or administrative measures permit, such an establishment may accept stray animals.”  European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals art. 1, Nov. 13, 1987, ETS No. 125,

[15] Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Specific Guidelines Regarding the Animal Welfare Act,, (last updated May 15, 2009) (see the section “With regard to § 22. General conditions for keeping animals”).

[16] FOR 1976-11-20 nr 03: Forskrifter om forbud mot at fremmedartede (eksotiske) dyr innføres, omsettes eller holdes som husdyr, selskapsdyr eller i fangenskap på annen mate [FOR 1976-11-20 nr 03: Regulations prohibiting alien (exotic) animals from being imported, sold, or kept as farm animals or pets or otherwise in captivity] (hereinafter Regulations) (Nov. 20, 1976, in force Jan. 1, 1977, as last amended Aug. 6, 2010), § 1, ¶ 1, LOVDATA,

[17] Id. § 1, ¶ 2.

[18] Id. § 1, ¶ 3.

[19] Animal Welfare Act, No. 73 (Dec. 20 1974), NORECOPA,  Note that the title of this Act (Dyrevernloven) is more typically translated as the Animal Protection Act.

[20] Reise med esotiske dyr til Norge [Traveling with Exotic Animals to Norway], Mattilsynet [Norwegian Food Safety Authority] (Mar. 19, 2013), dyr_til_Norge/#.

[21] Libby Anderson, Norway Says ‘No Way’ to Pet Reptile and Amphibian Keeping, OneKind (blog) (Apr. 4, 2013),

[22] Animal Welfare Act § 37, ¶ 1.

[23] Id. § 37, ¶ 2.  The Act provides, however, that the sanctions of paragraphs 1 and 2 do not apply to sections 4, 5, and 6, on the duty to help if an animal is obviously sick, injured, or helpless; on the duty to alert if a person believes an animal is exposed to mistreatment or neglect; and on the animal keeper’s responsibility to ensure that animals are looked after by competent personnel, respectively.  Id. § 37, ¶ 3.

[24] Regulations, supra note 16, § 3, ¶ 2, in part.

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Last Updated: 06/30/2015