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European Commission looking to introduce tougher rules for handling of pets

Dogs.
Dogs. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The European Commission has proposed a regulation to improve the well-being of cats and dogs in the EU. For example, premises where animals are kept need to have natural sunlight, while a cat older than six years can only be bred with a veterinarian's permission.

The Commission's proposal comes on the heels of 74 percent of EU residents feeling that the well-being of cats and dogs needs to be better protected.

New scientific and social approaches in animal welfare are also considered, such as "suffering" being, in addition to a negative feeling, the lack of positive feelings.

The Commission writes that while a part of animals are bred, kept and traded by responsible and reputable companies, a lot of cats and dogs on the European market (also those brought in from third countries) show signs of poor health or insufficient well-being.

For example, the situation is worrying in some shelters, especially those in Southern and Eastern Europe where too many animals are kept together. The Commission also finds that the illegal trade of cats and dogs requires a unionwide solution. That is why the EC is proposing to regulate rules governing the welfare of dogs and cats in transportation.

The proposed rules include new requirements for premises, feeding, socializing and healthcare. For example, it will be prohibited to carry over by way of breeding genotypes or phenotypes that negatively impact the welfare of offspring. Inbreeding between parents and offspring as well as grandparents and the generation over will be prohibited.

It is pointed out that short-nosed breeds will not be banned if the breeding process is aimed at reducing the negative health effects of deformed airways. Keeping dogs and cats in containers (small cages used for transport or temporary separation) will be prohibited. Dogs must be able to walk outside every day, while natural sunlight will need to reach premises where animals are kept.

A cat that is nursing must not be bred or inseminated, while dogs over the age of eight and cats over six can only be bred with express permission from a veterinarian.

Body-altering surgeries will be prohibited (except in cases where they are deemed necessary by a veterinarian), while all cat and dog breeders will need to apply for a license from the PTA.

Member States will collect and forward to the Commission data on the welfare of cats and dogs every three years, while it is up to the former to determine punishments. Member States are free to impose tougher requirements but must notify the Commission first.

The proposal does not present new regulations for citizens and pet owners. It establishes uniform EU rules for the welfare of dogs and cats that are bred or kept in breeding establishments, in pet shops as well as in shelters.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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