Trade as an Auction House selling Natural History specimens.

As an Auction House you are acting as an agent on behalf of the client. Legally it is the sellers duty to obtain all relevant licenses before attempting to display to the public for commercial purposes, use for commercial gain and sale, keeping for sale, offering for sale or transporting for sale of specimens listed in Annex “A” of EC Regs 338/97. As an agent you are allowed to offer for sale/sell under your clients licence – however you would also be held responsible if the relevant licenses were not in place. You MUST therefore make sure that all specimens are correctly licensed and proof of legality is obtained before you get involved.

Most people when thinking of auctions tend to think of antiques - although this is often not the case. However when dealing with antique taxidermy, dates are all important - especially when trading in CITES specimens and those listed EC Regs 338/97 Annex "A", (these include species from Tiger to a Barn Owl to Brazilian Rosewood furniture). With any such specimen described as "antique", the date that makes a difference as far as the law is concerned in Europe is 3rd March 1947. When the EC Regulation was originally adopted in 1997 (the 3rd of March to be exact) it was written that anything more than 50 years old was exempt from trade restrictions - hence 3rd March 1947. The regulation however does require that anything described as PRE 1947 can in fact be shown, beyond reasonable doubt, that this actually is the case - plus it must be "worked" (manufactured; modelled, altered significantly from its natural state). Furthermore, under the Regulations it states that although an Annex "A" specimen is exempt from licensing if originally mounted prior to 3/03/1947, it must have remained unaltered (reworked) since that date. If this is not the case then the specimen will require a licence.

The phrase "worked" causes a lot of confusion and is subject to Government interpretation and policy. A mounted bird is obviously "worked" - it has been modelled and significantly altered from its original state - however items such as Rhino horn, although displayed on a shield and dated 1920, is according to the Government advisors, not worked and therefore cannot be sold. This, considering the value of such an item is causing the trade here in the UK to go underground whilst in other EU member states, the policy may be different. - Watch this space for future developments on this subject - suffice it to say ill advised Auction Houses may find themselves in deep water if selling such items at present.

An example of "reworked" would be a cabinet specimen remounted into a lifelike pose. In this case, because it has been reworked since 1947, a licence will be required. Skin rugs that have repairs to backing, paintwork, eyes, or stitching of the original skin etc (maintenance) are O.K. and a licence, if originally proved to be before 1947 will not be required. It is when the item has changed from its original form ie. been mounted or altered that the exemption does not apply.

Specimens of EC Regs 338/97 Annex "B" species may not require a licence to sell within the EU but proof of legal import into the EU will be required, unless its origin is prior to the species being listed CITES (from 1975 or possibly later). An example would be African Lion (one of the only big cats not to be included in Annex "A") - the species is listed CITES Appendix 11 - EC Annex "B". If the specimen was originally acquired after 1/07/1975 you will need to show that it was imported legally into the EU.

Many CITES listed items are going under the hammer without proof or provenance. This is dangerous and against the law. Auction Houses can, and have been prosecuted for doing just this. Should you be in doubt, contact DEFRA who will advise you. They may pass you on to a Guild of Taxidermist Approved Taxidermy Inspector who will on behalf of your client give his opinion on dates of origin etc. A charge for this service will be made by the Inspector to your client.

Another important point is when offering for sale such species as Bats*; Otter*; Dormouse*; Scottish Wild Cat* and others listed EPS (European Protected Species). These species are now covered by The Habitats Regulation (they were previously listed under The WCA Schedule 5) and may require a sales licence. Natural England has now taken the view that specimen acquired prior to 1994 will not require a sales licence under this regulation. For Otter & SWC - an Article 10 under EC Regs 338/97 may still be required.

* . 1994 will be another date to remember. The Scots have already adopted the regulation on 15/02/2007 - the English 21st August 2007. As from then you will require a licence to possess such a species acquired after 1994. This piece of legislation does not affect specimens originally acquired before 1994 - so "antiques" etc are still OK but some species may require an Article 10 (See Habitats Regulation under VARIOUS REGULATIONS and LEGAL CHANGES under Members pages).

Certain Reptiles/Insects etc are covered by WCA Schedule 5 and will require a sales licence whatever the age. Species listed are Large Blue; Swallowtail as well as Smooth Snake, Grt Crested Newt etc. Red Squirrel & Pine Marten remain on Schedule 5 for sales purposes but in England a new General Licence has been issued (effective 01/01/2008) - Scotland have yet to confirm if they have followed suit.

Bids from abroad.

It is also worth remembering that certain species may cause problems for foreign clients. This is especially relevant when dealing with US clients. Species that are listed on the US Endangered Species Act - such as Tiger and many others basically means it is illegal to possess such a specimen in the US. In fact it is an offence to even enter into a commercial venture involving such a species - ie. it is illegal for a US client to bid for such a species/specimen. Yes I know what you are thinking - but we have dealt many times with Tiger skin rugs etc and US clients. You may well have done - and got away with it. Suffice it to say, one auction house.

Also you have the MBTA (The Migratory Bird Treaty Act) which prohibits possession by a US resident of a listed bird - and many are common European species and regularly traded. Although this particular act came into force in 1972 - therefore anything prior to that date is "pre-act" - the slightest sniff of a commercial venture (Auction) immediately overrides that fact. Another point to remember with the US is that what the EU regards as an antique cut off date (1947) means diddly squat to the US authorities. Over there an "antique" is 100 years old or more and you have to prove it. So to protect your overseas clients, check first that you can accept their bid otherwise when you come to export the item - all hell may let loose. (see SPECIES LIST under the MEMBERS SECTION)

Internet sites.

With the advent of Internet web sites, the taxidermy market (among many others) has gained in popularity. Whether trading on the Internet or through the traditional outlets, your requirements are exactly the same as above. The big difference is that here you are dealing with a far larger international market. Internet Auction Houses should therefore take note that in many cases International traders - and many, due to this relatively new market, are totally ignorant of European and more importantly their own domestic legislation - will find themselves in hot water if they take possession of certain species. A case in point is the USA and Canada - where Federal legislation prohibits the possession of some commonly traded UK species.

It would therefore be helpful if such sites were to make these points clear to their clients. We at taxidermylaw can advise you or your clients - it may save a lot of trouble - especially for the American bidder.

It is apparent that one or two of these Internet Auction Houses are themselves completely ignorant of the various regulations. We are approached time after time by clients that have had adverts withdrawn for no legal reason - and yet daily there appear other specimens that have no confirmation that certain regulations are being complied with.

Although you may be acting in good faith on your clients behalf - it is still the responsibility of any Auction House to make sure your client is not breaking the law.

Disclamer: This company or individual cannot accept any responsibility for information given that is either misinterpreted by the author or the recipient and which is based either on experience gained or a matter of law where the precedence is yet to be decided by a court of law. Any information or guidence given is purely an opinion, therefore it is recommended that accredited legal advise is sought where appropriate.

© 2016 Taxidermy Law