The last few years have left an indelible scar on Europe’s morality: Dogs and cats in certain regions and EU countries have been subjected to blanket culls, most notably in Romania. The outrage from many public quarters has been heard by the EU institutions in Brussels, and by NGOs throughout the EU.

On Wednesday 29 April, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare & Conservation of Animals, in collaboration with Marlene Mizzi MEP (S&D, MT),  Michela Giuffrida MEP, (S&D, IT), Stefan Eck  MEP (GUE/NGL, DE) and Davor Škrlec MEP (Greens/EFA, CR),  the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU and Eurogroup for Animals, hosted a conference to explore how the EU institutions can better manage stray dog and feral cat populations, and to ensure that mass cullings become a thing of the past.

After looking at the importance of cat & dog population management to wider veterinary public health, and looking at how stray and feral populations are driven by abandonment, resulting from widespread consumer ignorance and propagated by an illegal trade in these animals, the conference analysed various methods of population control as practised in Europe.

Commenting during the conference, co-host and Vice-President of the Intergroup on Animal Welfare, Marlene Mizzi MEP commented: “The EU estimates that there are around 100 million abandoned companion animals in Europe, many in EU Member States. Life on the streets is hard and brutal. All too often stray cats and dogs are not seen as beloved companions but as vermin. Yet the animals have not chosen a life of neglect. Their propagation is due to indecisive governments in certain EU Member States, who do not follow their own animal welfare laws, or simply lack the necessary tools.  It also seems that the serious political will is lacking in many Member States to introduce effective neutering laws to stop uncontrolled reproduction. I am sure that thanks to the conference, we can have better guidelines and strategies for the protection of stray dogs and feral cats within Europe. These animals have rights, deserve dignity, and it is up to us to look after them in this regard.

The Honorary Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture and Animal Rights for Malta, Roderick Galdes, on behalf of the Maltese Presidency also looked at how Malta has transformed itself into a country that stands as an example for much of the EU in terms of how it manages dog and cat populations. Commenting on the the situation in Europe, he said: “Today our citizens are increasingly aware as well as concerned about their surroundings. We constantly face initiatives and requests to improve the lives of stray dogs and feral cats. We need to look beyond seeing stray populations as the problem and instead we should focus on the wider context, on the diverse and negative practices leading to the increasing number of stray and feral populations. We have to address the root causes of the problem as there is not one single solution, but a variety of tools that should be considered. Today’s debate has allowed us to explore a range of these solutions which be unlocked at European as well as at national and local levels.

At the end of the conference, Joe Moran, who has led on companion animal work at Eurogoup for Animals, finished by outlining legal solutions at EU level to better protect and effectively manage stray and feral populations. He said: “The European Commission has claimed, partly with some validity, that cat and dog welfare is ostensibly the responsibility of the Member States. However, the culls that have taken place have invariably not been undertaken on the basis of animal welfare. No, instead they have been conducted on the grounds of the disease risk that the animals pose to humans, and this is an area in which the EU institutions can act.
The EU level has a clear role to play when it comes to combating veterinary public health risks. Indeed the Commission even funds programmes – such as the rabies eradication programme – based on such competences. It is time for the hand-wringing to stop. The Commission has it within its power to ensure that best practices on the humane management of stray dog and feral cat populations are followed as a requirement under Union disease eradication programmes. Pressure is now needed from the European Parliament to push the Commission to create such a framework, and Eurogroup for Animals is ready to work with MEPs to this end.”

The PPT presentations of the Conference can be found here

Video recording of the conference





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