EU Commission Conference on the Welfare of Dogs and Cats

New Chapter for Companion Animals in Europe: the European Commission’s first conference on the welfare of dogs and cats



The European Commission’s first conference on the welfare of dogs and cats, “Building a Europe that cares for companion animals”, took place on 28 October 2013 in Brussels, with an encouraging consensus and perspective. VIER PFOTEN welcomes this door-opening event.


The goal of the conference was to identify and tackle the key issues concerning dogs and cats in the European Union. For this purpose more than 470 stakeholders from government authorities, animal welfare organisations and those with a professional and personal interest came together yesterday to discuss and reflect on practical considerations relating to companion animal welfare.


With over a hundred million owned animals, dogs and cats are the most popular companion animals in Europe, kept for companionship or services. The growing number of these animals has generated a major industry including, for example, pet food and medicines. Unfortunately, there is also another kind of grey and black market of pure breed puppies produced in so-called “puppy mills” under the poorest conditions, and an increasing illegal trade causing severe problems for animal health and welfare, for public health and for consumers, and creating market distortion. Moreover, in some Member States there are severe problems of uncontrolled reproduction of abandoned dogs and cats.


While the EU has no legal competences in this last field, the first stage in improving the commercial and health aspects of dogs and cats will be a study. However, the EU can develop further measures to provide the Member States with tools to create a common European understanding of animal welfare and responsible ownership, such as a compatible system of Identification and Registration in Europe.


Some well-functioning models of national legislation and national organisation relating to companion animals were pointed out, and an urgent need for measures to put into practice the principle of “Responsible Ownership” emerged clearly. These measures included: precise legislation with clear competences, information and education, a mandatory Identification and Registration system, nationwide mid- and long-term neutering programs for population control instead of killing, rules for shelters and for keeping companion animals, and a culture of adoption instead of buying animals from dubious sources.


“The recent Animal Welfare Law of Lithuania is the first national animal welfare law linked expressly to the European principle laid down in Art. 13 Lisbon Treaty. A responsible ownership for all animals is one of the effects of this ethical principle. As dogs and cats are the animals living closest to humans, a European culture of Responsible Ownership can be developed well by starting with these animals and implementing a Europe-wide compatible system of Identification and Registration for all dogs.” stated Marlene Wartenberg, Director of VIER PFOTEN’s European Policy Office in Brussels.

For more information please also consult and


Download the conference conclusions.


The conferences documents  (agenda and presentations) are available here.


Description of the Event

The population of owned dogs and cats in the European Union is estimated at more than one hundred million animals. Whilst for many of us they provide companionship or recreation or perhaps assistance in our working lives, they are for others purely a source of income. From food and medicines to cosmetics and luxuries, a major industry has developed, dedicated to the breeding and upkeep of companion animals.
The rise in animal commerce brings problems of its own. Genetic selection, puppy farming, mutilations and inhumane disposal are just some of the issues that have far reaching consequences for pet welfare, public health and consumer protection throughout the EU. There is however no harmonised legislation that addresses the welfare concerns of companion animals.
This first European conference seeks to provide stakeholders from all backgrounds – government authorities, NGOs and those with a professional or personal interest – with an opportunity to discuss and reflect on the practical considerations that relate to companion animal welfare with a view to establishing a means of identifying and tackling the key issues.
The conference will also see the launch of a study into the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices. Based on the outcome of the study and this conference's proceedings, the Commission will consider what further action is necessary in order to improve animal welfare and to increase transparency and adequacy of information to consumers.
During the conference you will have the opportunity to learn about the various initiatives and peruse the educational literature presented by the exhibitors from all around Europe.