The conference entitled ”Welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices” was organised by the Animal Welfare department of the State of Baden-Württemberg with the support of the European Police Office VIER PFOTEN in Brussels on 12 November 2015.
This conference focused on the commercial breeding and the illegal online trade of dogs and cats across Europe.
Dr. Andrea Gavinelli, Head of Unit G3 from DG Sante (European Commission) presented the outcomes of the study conducted in the 12 EU member states for the year 2012-2015. He highlighted that “in the EU there are 60.8 million dogs and 66.5 million cats, with an annual revenue estimated at 1.3 billion euros. Whereas the import of dogs is estimated at approximately 21 million euros (2014) and cats at 3 million euros (2014)”. The most surprising fact is that only 13% of purchased pets come from professional breeders. But how can we manage to solve this increasing problem when there are still several European countries, such as: Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary or Spain, that haven't specified the legal definition of a professional breeder.
Dr Claudia Vet recognised that the non-professional breeders are only generating a profit from selling dogs and cats and they follow the rule to “produce as many litters as possible and to even breed dogs with genetic diseases”. As a result, dogs suffer from chronic illnesses, which require costly medical treatments.
Sophie Duthoit, the EU Legal Research Officer at VIER PFOTEN in Brussels, contrasted the large difference in profit-making of the trade of dogs and cats between professional and non-professional breeders. According to data from France, professional breeders spend about 762 euros per puppy, whereas non-professionals spend less than 260 euros, which means that he or she could sell the puppy for much less (about 361 euros instead of 1662 euros). The greatest difference in cost stems from providing medical treatment (vaccination, basic care, qualify food) and fulfilling legal practices (registration and identification, pet passport, breeding certificate and taxes), not to mention breeding costs. For example, in France, the government loses a tremendous amount of income due to the illegal trade of companion animals, estimated at 312 million euros annually .
Eric van Tilburgh noted that Belgium has banned the sale of imported dogs/ cats as well as the online listing of authorised breeders.
Reineke Hameleers said that, “In Europe,there is a serious lack of traceability implementation of responsible commercial practices as well as responsible ownership”.
Janusz Wojciechowski suggested to subsidise the protection of dogs and cats, which would only require about 0.01% of the total EU budget. He pointed out that “There are no special regulations for dogs and cats and no legal basis for intervening in this matter”. Some of the possible solutions are to promote the adoption of dogs as well as introduce the sterilization of companion animals in order to minimise the problem of stray animals and the dissemination of zoonoses diseases.
Dr Felix Wildschutz highlighted that there is no mandatory identification and registration of dogs and cats or an official certificate and trace notification in Luxembourg. He mentioned “the need of the competent authority to inform the competent authority of the country of dispatch about the non-compliance detected”.
Conclusion of the day
Dr. Jouke Knol had heard about the good and bad practices concerning animal welfare, but the conclusion is that many of us cope with the same problems, and generally people care about pets, but in order to protect companion animals we need to work together: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the stakeholders, the NGOs, the EU member states and the animal welfare organizations. We should exchange ideas about the best trading practices and encourage responsible breeding.
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