Historic Turning Point for Dogs and Cats in Europe in Sight – Council's Working Group Advises to Establish EU Legislation

Brussels, 27 October 2010: A historic decision for the welfare of companion animals in the EU has been made by the Councils’ Working Group of Veterinary Experts, just a few days after an international conference on ‘Dog Responsible Ownership in Europe’, where the EU was asked to take over this issue.

This act, expected to be passed by the Council of Ministers, might originate the greatest improvement for companion animals’ welfare in European history.

Today the Council’s Working Group agreed the recognition of dog and cat welfare as an issue where EU legislation has to be harmonised because of deep discrepancies among the Member States. So far, the welfare of companion animals had been considered as part of subsidiarity and, as such, entirely delegated to Member States.

This new decision follows many years of growing EU commitment to animal welfare, visible in the new Art. 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, in some legislation and in the first Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, whose second part is expected in the coming months.

The international conference ‘Responsible Dog Ownership in Europe’ organised by VIER PFOTEN / FOUR PAWS and Istituto G. Caporale, held in Brussels on 4 and 5 October 2010 at the presence of over 100 participants from over 25 countries, made clear that most Member States were failing to respond adequately to dog overpopulation, to the increase of stray animal population in general and to EU citizens’ concerns on dog – and other companion animals – welfare.

Helmut Dungler, President of VIER PFOTEN / FOUR PAWS International said: “We warmly welcome the Working Group’s decision that advises the Council to give a clear mandate to the European Commission for the start of an EU-wide harmonisation process based on the principle of responsible ownership of companion animals. We hope that soon a full mandate of the Council will allow us to cooperate with the European Commission for the identification of concrete responses to the increase of canine overpopulation, to brutality toward dogs and cats, to illegal puppy trade and to suffering of stray animals in Europe. The cooperation already in place with the Commission through the CAROdog website could this way find new and broader practical applications”.

“Companion animal health and welfare – said Vincenzo Caporale, director of Istituto G. Caporale – are veterinary public health concerns, and harmonised strategies to facilitate a responsible ownership as well as to fight against overpopulation have to be adopted urgently for a better coexistence of men and animals, especially in urban areas. We are ready to make our expertise available for the Commission, to provide scientifically based possible solutions”.

Within the Belgian Presidency, VIER PFOTEN / FOUR PAWS and the Istituto G. Caporale launched the CAROdog website aimed to provide, generate and disseminate reliable knowledge about dogs’ health and welfare in Europe. This website, supported by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and of the European Commission (DG SANCO) is a tool available to European citizens and institutions to help the European citizens’ best friends.