- Petras Auštrevičius - MEP (Renew Europe, LT)
- Tiziana Beghin - MEP (NA, IT)
- Marina Kaljurand - MEP (S&D, EST)
- Michal Wiezik - MEP (Renew Europe, SK)
- Jadwiga Wiśniewska - MEP (ECR, PL)
The Working Group is coordinated by Iwona Mertin from Eurogroup for Animals
Currently in Europe there are 92 million owned dogs and 113 million cats (FEDIAF data) and similarly in the US there are 76 million dogs and over 95 million cats (Rainwalk data) yet companion animal issues are not properly framed and implemented in EU regulation. Today, pets are not equally protected under EU law as farm animals and due to the COVID19 health crisis, there has been an increase in the demand for companion animals.
When it comes to pet trade, national-level regulation seems to be insufficient and illegal puppy mills are putting pets welfare in risk. An estimated 46,000 dogs are traded each month across the EU, but only 20,779 are TRACES registered dogs. A considerable number of these animals are being illegally bred and raised in inappropriate conditions in one Member State to be sold in another EU country with no controls.
Read more here on the main issues, consequences and current responses.
The Working Group aims at promoting the health and welfare of companion animals including through the following objectives:
- Identification and registration of cats and dogs
Promote a harmonised, EU-wide system of mandatory identification and registration of cats and dogs as a necessary first step in the fight against illegal trade in companion animals, and that registration and identification are key conditions for control, enforcement and traceability;
In this context, the working group should urge the Commission to make full use of its delegated powers under Articles 109(2) and 118 of the Animal Health Law and come forward with a proposal for detailed, interconnected, EU-wide, compatible systems for the means and methods of identification and registration of cats and dogs.
The proposal should set a minimum threshold for the information required for individual animal identification and establish rules for the exchange of electronic data between databases in the Member States, which should be interconnected by the end of this legislative term.
The Working group should raise awareness amongst consumers of the dangers of buying animals on the Internet.
The working group should ensure that the revisions of the Digital Services Act, including the Electronic Commerce Directive, and the Commercial Transport Regulation tackle also the illegal pet trade.
The working group should urge the Commission to draw up a cross-sectoral EU action plan to address the illegal trade in companion animals in the EU; this plan should clearly define the responsibilities of all stakeholders and decision-makers, including the Member States, the Commission, border, customs and veterinary authorities, veterinarians and civil society organisations;
The working group should call on the Commission to propose common standards for the breeding and selling of cats and dogs to be put in place across the EU with the aim of preventing unfair commercial practices and the mis-selling of such companion animals. These standards should also limit the continuation of breed-specific health and welfare issues, and establish a level playing field for economic operators;
The working group should incite the Commission and the Member States to build on and disseminate the output of the Voluntary Initiative Subgroup on Health and Welfare of Pets in Trade within the framework of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare;
Request the EP Research Service to provide a study on the implementation and enforcement of the legislation across the EU that applies directly to pets e.g. Delegated Act on registration of breeding establishments
Ensure viable outcomes for pets and their owners in the future EU-UK partnership.
The working group will call on the European Commission and the Member States to introduce mandatory registration and identification and an interlinked database system.
The working group should urge the European Commission to disseminate stray population management standards and ensure that no EU financing supports inhumane population management, including in the frame of national veterinary programmes.
On 29 September 2022, the Companion Animals Working Group held a meeting on population management and released a Dog and Cat Population Management Policy Guidance Report, in addition to case studies on population management in Odesa, Ukraine, Ilha de Faro, Portugal and Sofia, Bulgaria.
Public awareness-raising and promotion of best practices
The Working Group should take initiatives to increase public awareness on EU level and to promote EU policy-making specifically related to the welfare of companion animals.
The working group should promote and share best practices that already exist on local and national level.
Cat and dog meat trade
The working group will support third countries in their efforts to phase out practices involving the capture, transport and consumption of cats and dogs, which are similar to those seen regarding the emergence of pandemics and evoke public health and animal welfare concerns.
The working group will raise awareness on the topic, including engaging with the Commission and relevant Embassies.
Fighting illegal pet trade with the help of Identification & Registration
The 6th meeting of the European Parliament’s Companion Animals Working Group chaired by MEP Petras Austrevicius gathered experts: Dr. Sarah Hüller, Coordinator of the Network I&R; Georgia Diamantopoulou, EU Companion Animal Policy Coordinator; and Philip McCreight, Co-founder of the Network I&R, CEO TASSO e.V., to discuss the issues surrounding the Identification & Registration (I&R) of companion animals.
Zooming in on different Member States, participants looked in particular at cases of Germany and Ireland, where with different cost-efficient solutions an objective of coordinated and interlinked I&R systems could be achieved to improve animal-owner reunification rates and protect consumers from illegal pet trade.
Solutions like HABS (Pet Query Service) by TASSO e.V. in Germany, a meta search engine which allows users to access information from all connected databases, and PetSafe by Four Paws and Europetnet, currently tested in Ireland, that allows only verified, registered dogs to be advertised by registered, hence traceable, owners or keepers, provide tangible solutions to interconnectedness and illegal trade problems.
Establishing an effective and efficient I&R system has a multitude of benefits such as informing and protecting the consumer, ensuring responsible breeding and selling of pets and enforcing I&R nationally and EU-wide. While both projects target the essence of the problem, there is still a need, however, to target the demand side of the illegal pet trade, namely consumers.
The expert presentations were followed by an exchange of views with MEPs and a discussion on how to best approach the issue of I&R on EU level.
For detailed presentations by Dr Sarah Hüller and Philip McCreight, and the announcements of the European Parliament’s Companion Animals’ Working Group please follow our website. If you wish to receive direct invitations to the meetings, please fill in the form.
Why should the EU want to end the cat and dog meat trade?
During the 7th meeting of the European Parliament’s Companion Animals Working Group, chair MEP Petras Austrevicius together with experts, Dr Karanvir Kukreja, Head of Public Campaigns Southeast Asia - Companion Animals at FOUR PAWS and Nancy de Briyne DVM, Executive Director at Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, discussed the risks related to the Southeast Asian cat and dog meat trade.
It is estimated that annually 10 million dogs and cats are killed for human consumption in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. The trade involves extreme animal cruelty during capture, transport, holding and slaughter with dogs and cats often stolen or forcefully taken from their owners.
The cat and dog meat trade and consumption pose a significant human health risk and severe diseases like rabies, cholera and trichinellosis are associated with it. Moreover, the meat contains high levels of antibiotic residues leading to antimicrobial resistance. Finally, mutated canine influenza or canine coronavirus carry a potential of infecting and spreading to humans giving sufficient ground to future pandemics.
While human health risks are largest in the source countries, EU citizens can be affected as well. Disease outbreaks and zoonoses can jeopardise European travellers in Southeast Asia. Mutated viruses can be imported through pets rescued from the meat trade. Therefore, the EU has a direct interest to stop the cat and dog meat trade.
MEP Martin Hojsik, member of the ASEAN Delegation outlined the need for the European Parliament to address this issue, as well as for the ASEAN Delegation to commit relevant ambassadors to change. The feeling among MEPs is underpinned by local consumers’ preferences. A great majority of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Indonesian citizens do not see the future for the cat and dog meat trade. The speakers and participants agreed that now is the time for ASEAN countries to ban the cat and dog meat trade and enforce their legislation on animal movement and rabies eradication to protect the consumers and prevent future pandemics.
The Need to Breed Healthy Animals
Hilde Røssland and Birte Toft (Norwegian Small Animal Veterinary Association) and Åshild Roaldset (Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals) presented the recent Norwegian court case that resulted in a ban on the breeding of some short-muzzled breeds. The case has been appealed and will be heard again in September 2022.
The speakers detailed the health problems caused by long inbreeding of these dogs such as respiratory problems. They highlighted the need to change breeding methods. Discussions were centered around the fact that EU, its Member States, as well as EEA, must raise awareness, follow the EU PAW guidelines for breeding of dogs (and cats), ban the breeding of these cruel breeds, and strongly regulate their trade.
Policy Guidance on the Population Management of Cats and Dogs
Large numbers of roaming cats and dogs are a common sight in many urban as well as rural areas in Europe. Their health and welfare can be seriously affected directly, when the stray animals themselves live under poor conditions and indirectly, when inhumane (and ineffective) population control measures are used.
In the EU, the majority of stray dogs are abandoned by their owner or born from unsterilised owned dogs that are free to roam. Many so-called feral cats are often the offspring of previously owned pets which makes clear that as long as people own dogs and cats there will always be a need to manage their populations.
The role of national governments is key for enabling a cooperative approach among the many stakeholders, from local authorities to veterinarians, from raising awareness on responsible ownership to pushing for better legislation and enforcement. Both owned and stray dogs and cats are increasingly being moved across borders for sale and adoption which emphasises the importance of a consistent approach across EU countries.
Means for achieving the Working Group's objectives:
- Raise awareness in the European Parliament about the serious welfare issues surrounding companion animals
- Present the problems along with solutions & actions MEPs propose to take
- Cooperate with NGOs involved promoting a common agenda, also by granting the status of observers or permanent observers according to specific rules of procedure. The organisations Four Paws and the EU Dog & Cat Alliance have permanent observer status in the working group.
- Put pressure on the Commission and the Member States to consider legislation that leads to the end of the illegal pet trade
- Host and participate in a number of events in the European Parliament
- Support local campaigns at Member State level and act as spokespersons
- Join public campaign activities in order to apply further pressure and draw attention to the issue
- Prompt press interest in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe