On the way to implement a harmonized system of Identification and Registration of dogs and cats Tasso e.V., FOUR PAWS, Europetnet, CAROdog, Carocat organized a seminar in Berlin on 6th September 2016. Germany is one of the countries in European Union with the worsst system for I&R. For this reason the Representation of the Saarland has organized a seminar inviting animal welfare and veterinary communities, parliamentarians and animal welfare officers. All together the experts discussed a roadmap for the implementation of I&R in Germany. Saying that Germany could take a leading position within the European Union, in addition, the possible German system could serve as a model for the establishment of an EU-wide harmonization of identification and registration of pet animals, as called for by a large majority in February 2016 by the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Summary of the Seminar:
On 6 September 2016, TASSO e.V. and the Animal Welfare Ombudsman of theState of Saarland together with FOUR PAWS Germany, Europetnet, CAROdog and CAROcat organized an expert conference in Berlin on the requirements for national traceability of dogs and cats. The event was joined by about seventy participants, representing politics, state officials, veterinary officials, the industry and other animal welfare organisations.
In his welcome speech, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Environment und Consumer Protection of the State of Saarland, Roland Krämer, underlined the importance of introducing a national identification and registration (I&R) system for dogs and cats in Germany. He named the numerous advantages that such a system would bring for cities and communes as well as for pet owners. Shelters and communes would safe costs as dogs and cats could be returned to their owners faster and the abandonment of animals would decrease. Besides better animal welfare, a centralized I&R system would also help to reduce the risk of disease spreading and help to decrease the illegal puppy trade. The State of Saarland is planning to issue a Council initiative on the introduction of a mandatory identification and registration (I&R) system for dogs and cats in Germany. As the majority of EU Member States have some kind of I&R system already, this initiative aims for harmonization more than splitting the Union.
Philip McCreight, Director of the German database TASSO e.V., emphasized that it is important to create an overarching centralized database instead of creating several regional databases. As there are already two big registries existing in Germany (“TASSO” and the “Deutsche Heimtierregister”), where more than half of the dogs and cats in Germany are registered, it would be ineffective to create another database. TASSO and the DHR are private agencies but could offer the same service as a state run database could provide and beyond, said McCreight.
The veterinary associations Bundestierärztekammer e.V. and Bundesverband praktizierender Tierärzte e.V. are also in favor of a national identification and registration system for dogs and cats? in Germany which should be compatible at EU level. Dr. Iris Fuchs, Vice President of the Chamber of State Veterinarians, said the European Single Market enables free movements of persons and goods but also the spreading of diseases, animal cruelty and illegal practices. The lack of EU legislation and harmonized national regulations is leading to illegal and cruel breeding, keeping, trading and transport practices. Dr. Fuchs calls on the EU to introduce, next to regulations on animal health, likewise regulations covering animal welfare.
In her key note speech, Dr. Renate Sommer, Member of the European Parliament, gave an overview on the situation at EU level. Historically, companion animals do not play a major role at EU level. While farmed animals and animals in experiments are widely regulated under EU law, companion animals do not fall directly under the competence of the EU. Their protection can only be improved through other policy areas such as health, trade or consumer protection. Nevertheless, there are 126 Million dogs and cats kept as pets in Europe and the trade with them makes a big share of the EU’s economy.
The EU Commission’s study on the trade of companion animals came to the conclusion that a harmonized identification and registration system for dogs and cats is necessary and can be achieved through a delegated act in the Animal Health Law (Regulation 429/2016). With its Resolution from February 2016, the European Parliament asks the Commission to submit a delegated act in the frame of Animal Health Law which harmonizes the identification and registration of dogs and cats in the EU by the Resolution 2016/2540 RSP).
The political situation in Germany was described by the Member of Parliament Nicole Maisch who is the animal welfare spokeswoman of the Greens. She criticized the reluctance of the government on this issue. Although in the coalition-agreement the government announced to allocate financial support for shelters and release states and communes, no measures have been taken to actually achieve this goal. A parliamentary question, tabled by the Greens, asking the Ministry of Food and Agriculture if they would consider introducing a mandatory I&R system, they rejected, saying such a system would be too costly, too much of an administrative burden and not advantageous enough to justify the effort.
In fact, a centralized I&R system which is compatible at EU level is not costly, not much of an administrative burden and actually easy to achieve, as the sum of the conference has shown.
The two big databases in Germany, TASSO and Deutsches Heimtierregister presented that they already save more than 11 million euro for the state by returning animals to their owners (numbers of TASSO e.V.). The director of TASSO claimed that they could save up to 30 million euro if all dogs and cats would be registered. He strongly recommend the idea of a single entity (on the basis of the Austrian and Netherlands example) that connects all existing databases in Germany and to which all involved parties would have access to.
The question aroused, if a private agency which is financed by donations like TASSO could run a public duty. The conference guests agreed, that there are other examples where this is the case, e.g. TÜV or DEKRA.
Dr. Christoph Maisack from the staff unit of the Animal Welfare Commissioner of the State of Baden-Württemberg gave an inside on the legal basis in the German legislation for an I&R system. With the approval of the Council, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture could pass a regulation on harmonized identification systems based on article 2a, paragraph 1b of the German Animal Welfare Act (TSchG). The legal basis for the creation of a harmonized database would have to be added to the law.
Further, the conference guests agreed that it is important to create awareness for this issue among the public. This could be achieved with an information campaign based on short and simple messages, impressing visuals, animating events and emotions.
The representative of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Eva Tennagels, promised to forward to gained information and demands to the Minister and that they will review the issue. She admitted that it was a political decision if I&R would be introduced at a national level in Germany. They will make a cost-benefit-calculation. Also she referred to the work of the Minister in the alliance with Denmark, the Netherlands and other EU Member States where they have put the issue of illegal puppy trade on the agenda. In the end, she said, I&R is important but it will not solve all problems.
Finally, the speakers and participants of the seminar call on
- the Commission to introduce through a delegated act on the basis of the Animal Health Law a harmonized EU wide identification and registration system for dogs and cats as it is suggested in the Resolution of the European Parliament;
- the State of Saarland to initiate a Council proposal on the introduction of a compatible national identification and registration system for dogs and cats;
- the German government to adapt such a system and as a first step, to set up an expert working group to identify solutions for a harmonized registration system