Cats and dogs will get some minimum protection in the EU - Andrew S via Unsplash


Paws up for EU cats and dogs welfare plan


Cats and dogs in Europe look likely to be left purring and tail-wagging over enhanced care rules that would apply across the European Union.

The Council of the European Union’s proposal to improve the welfare of the animals has been given a thumbs up (or paws up?) by the Member States.

EU citizens own a total of more than 72 million dogs and more than 83 million cats, according to the bloc’s statistics.

Under the agreement on June 26, the EU wants to introduce a set of bloc-wide rules on the animals for the first time.

The proposal aims to prohibit inbreeding, unless to preserve local breeds with a limited genetic pool.

Cats and dogs with what the Council described only as “extreme traits” would be excluded from breeding, to prevent passing these traits on to future generations

There would be mandated microchipping of the animals and a ban on painful mutilations such as ear-cropping, tail-docking, and the removal of claws, unless required for  medical reasons.

Cats and dogs with such mutilations or “extreme conformational traits” will be excluded from taking part in competitions, shows or exhibitions, the Council stated.

The proposal also wants to ensure all the animals have enough fresh water, sufficient food and suitable housing conditions.

Dog older than 12 weeks must have daily access to an outdoor area or must be walked daily.

Commercially imported cats or dogs will be subject to the same standards and will have to be registered on an EU database five working days after they enter the bloc.

The plan for a European-wide welfare framework for the animals was put forward by Flanders, via the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Flemish animal welfare minister Ben Weyts of the centre-right N-VA party called it “a historic step for the EU”.

“Very proud that Flanders has pulled the cart for this. This is an important basis for shaping a European animal policy in the coming years,” he wrote on X about his pet project.

In a press statement, Weyts said: “We first established animal welfare as a fully developed competence at the Flemish level. Now, we are extending this initiative to the European level.”

All the proposed requirements are already in place in Flanders.

Weyts stressed there was a large international trade in cats and dogs, with a lot of animals entering Belgium from Eastern Europe.

“Until now, there has only been limited European legislation to combat the spread of rabies and other diseases or to protect laboratory animals,” he said.

“The protection of the millions of cats and dogs kept as pets was primarily governed by national regulations, which varied significantly from one country to another.

“As a result, there were insufficient guarantees for animal welfare, as well as inadequate assurances for fair competition and consumer protection,” Weyts added.

“Many Europeans have a great love for animals, and it is time for the EU to reflect that. We are now laying a solid foundation to develop an animal policy at the European level in the coming years.

“Flanders has already shown in recent years that this is possible.”

Negotiations between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, the EU’s co-legislators, will start as soon as the European Parliament has agreed on its position. The outcome of these talks will determine the final version of the law.