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The Barn Owl Trust

Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

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Keeping and release of Barn Owls

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Keeping and release of Barn Owls - the law

Legal aspects of keeping permanently captive owls
Schedule 3 (Part 1) of the W&C Act 1981, allows for the keeping, advertising for sale and actual sale of certain species if ringed and bred in captivity. The required ring type for Barn Owls is a continuous metal band known as a closed ring, size U. Where an un-ringed Barn Owl is kept in captivity the keeper must be able to prove that the bird was legally obtained and, in the case of wild origin birds, that it is not fit for release.

All captive Barn Owls (including permanently disabled birds of wild origin) are also covered by European Union (EU) Council Regulation 338/97, which applies the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in European law. This requires that the keepers of captive bred Barn Owls additionally hold a Specimen Specific Certificate (also known as an Article 10 Certificate) for all specified commercial uses within the EU. This certificate is not owner specific, but relates to an individual bird and should be passed on from keeper to keeper. The commercial uses for which an Article 10 Certificate is required include the sale of birds and other activities involving commercial gain, such as the display of birds in public places and visitor centres. In order to obtain an Article 10 Certificate for a bird that is not close-ringed, the bird must be micro-chipped or, in exceptional circumstances, fitted with a cable-tie ring issued by the licensing body. For enquires concerning individual birds and Article 10 licence applications the relevant country agency should be contacted (e.g. Natural England).

The release of captive Barn Owls
Barn Owls are included in Schedule 9 of the W&C Act 1981 and under Section 14 it is an offence to release or allow the escape of any Schedule 9 bird. The release of captive-bred Barn Owls is therefore illegal. No licences permitting release have been issued since 2002, when consultation on the practice ended, and it is highly unlikely that licences for the release of captive-bred Barn Owls will be issued in the foreseeable future. However, the release of Barn Owls of wild origin is permitted under a general exemption licence.


There is more information on this topic in the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook


The Barn Owl Trust is dedicated to conservation & education and does not operate a visitor centre.
Barn Owl Trust staff and volunteers
Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7HU
+44 (0) 1364 653026