Dog trains man

Friday, January 21, 2011

Europe No-Kill by 2016?

image courtesy of
Animal welfare for pets varies enormously throughout Europe. Not only do countries legislate differently. Even towns legislate differently. Last week's story on Dancing Dog Blog about the Swiss town threatening to put down dogs for unpaid taxes was yet another example. Thankfully the Swiss government quickly stopped the local authorities before any dog could get hurt. A painful reminder of the incoherent policies throughout Europe.

Seen in this light, there was positive news last November that this is about to change. The EU announced that the protection of companion animals - meaning dogs and cats - will be integrated in EU animal welfare legislation. See the press release her: Good news from Brussels: Dogs and cats under protection of the EU. When the EU legislates, it overulles all other country and community laws. In one blow they are able to harmonise all legislation about animal welfare.

The plan

What does the plan from the EU entail? It is very ambitious. They will focus from 2011 onwards on companion animals as part of their animal welfare policy for the first time. The overall goal is that no more healthy pets are put down by 2016. In short: No-Kill in the whole of Europe. Some of the measures that will be implemented are:
  • birth control
  • closing of puppy mills
  • EU wide pet licensing and registration
  • rules for breeding and trading
All will benefit. Even countries like Germany and the Netherlands that already have the above in place, suffer from puppy mills in Eastern European countries that keep the illegal influx of puppies alive. Germany is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by the plan. Their efforts have resulted in only 8% of the population owning a dog. As far as I know, Germany is no-kill already. Compare that to France with a much softer legislation where 38% of the population has a dog. Great-Britain with 23% and 15,000 healthy dogs killed each year. The southern and eastern countries have even more issues. Strays, puppy mills, etc. So many lives can be saved. It would be great if we could follow the German and Dutch scenario all over Europe without local exceptions.

Can the EU make a difference?

The goals are ambitious and sound like music to my ears. As wonderful this news might seem, I have mixed feelings about it. The EU is definitely the place that could make a change, unfortunately it is also the Mecca of bureaucracy and compromise. The track record of the EU in the area of animal welfare is very poor. So far they have only focused on life-stock and progress in this area is futile, hindered by big fat agricultural lobby groups.

I hope the EU can break with its own past and accomplish their goals. This is their chance. No, this is our chance. The pet industry, puppy mills in particular, have no EU lobby power like agriculture. Neither is it likely they have the financial means to build up an EU sized lobby. On the other hand we have also seen the whole of Europe making the wrong decisions in animal welfare due to some farmers going to the barricades in just one of the member states.

Fair enough. I am excited, this gives hope nonetheless.

First steps

The action plan has just been set in place, and therefore nothing concrete has come out of Brussels yet. But some first steps already are visible. At the moment they are building websites to inform the public and gathering data to develop the policies. Everything will be published online. Keep your eyes on this unfolding website: Data from all European countries and from most other countries in the world will be collected here, with numbers and performance indicators about companion animal welfare. How many dogs are sheltered, how many re-homed, put down etc. Together with showcases of successful projects, the tools to analyze it, and what was done to reach those numbers. Compared per country. Bookmark this site, it will become a rich source of information.



  1. Yes, it will be something to watch! Thanks for reporting on this.

  2. The plan sounds good to me! I would love to watch this unfold!

    Thank you for suggestion on stem cell, we never thought of that and will happily be looking into it!

  3. @sagechronicles
    And thanks for stopping by!

    Me too, their plans defintely sound good!

    For the stem cells you can ask @VetStem on twitter who produces stem cells for immune systems. Or, also on twitter, @dawgblogger who has experience with stem cell treatments for immune disorders and arthritis for her dog Jasmine. Good luck! I hope it will work out.

  4. Awesome that the framework is already being put into place! Anxious to hear more about this as it progresses!

  5. That gives me a lot of hope! The fact that the EU actually cares enough to put together a plan is reason alone to be optimistic. Government websites educating the public are a great way to start! Thanks for keeping us informed! If Europe can do it, so can North America.

  6. @Lori
    Hi! I will post updates of new developments and progress made

    It is giving hope indeed. You are right it is reason alone to be positive that there is a plan. I am sure North America will also get there, lets hope good results from Europe can help speeding the process.

  7. This is incredible- it will be fascinating to see how it plays out. I read about that Swiss town re: dogs and taxes... what a HORRIBLE idea. Good thing it was stopped!

  8. Wow! I don't know where this will go, but like Shauna said "it will be fascinating to see how it plays out." At least they've made an attempt at a uniform policy regarding Companion Animals. It's more than what we've done here. Thanks for sharing this Leo!!!!

  9. It sounds like a wonderful idea, but getting those plans successfully implemented is another thing. The EU has bigger problems right now, like getting the Euro stable. Portugal and Greece did a great job at announcing that they are broke..

    Sorry Leo, today you get cranky, bitter Karen :P

  10. I am amazed that the EU is putting together this plan. Whether it gets implemented as is, or even as a compromise....what a step forward! Puppy mills, breeding, trading, birth control, etc...all in one fell swoop! Wonderful to think of the possibility.

    It's interesting that with legislation like this, the ownership of companion animals falls so drastically. Because...? More "troublesome" for owners???

    Thanks for this kenzo. Will keep an eye on that link especially if it's going to be stats from around the world. I would love to know how Australia stacks up.

  11. @Shauna
    The Swiss town ... not our finest hour. Glad that embarassement was stopped in time too.

    The EU is the right place to make this happen. But like you I also am sceptic. Lets see some results first!

    Lets call it realistic :) Like I just said to Mel there is a lot of reasons to remain sceptic until we see some results!

    Glad you mentioned, I couldn't find any proof for that correlation either. But there are a lot of assumptions that when people are "responsible owners" you can see in the stats they own less dogs.

    They published this link to the CCAC which already gives some highlight info about Australia. Also on how many % of the population owns a dog.

  12. Well, I will follow my cranky friend Karen and say I think this is a fantastic plan and very exciting! I like that everyone has to fall in line with an EU ruling. Crack that whip - this is a good cause:)

    Have you noticed that when economies are bad, the warm and fuzzy topics like animal welfare take strides? One thing most can agree on - and while implementation is a hairy wild beast, when you are armed with a plan, you can often outwit those who would block progress.

    Thanks for the mention,too!

  13. thanks for the link kenzo. i've been reading it. unfortunately, the site was last updated in 2008 and some of the info is from 2000! i wonder why they stopped updating :( it would otherwise be a useful resource. i'll go back to read some of the links there when i have time. maybe they're newer. thanks again!

  14. @Mary
    Absolutely. The major economies like Germany have come past the financial crisis and are growing rapid again. Despite some countries like Greece and Ireland tipping over. Lets hope it stays that way until 2016 before the new crisis comes :)

  15. The fact that this announcement was made is itself very good news: This means there is awareness of the problem and at least an attempt to do something about it. Implementation is never entirely smooth, but at least there are goals established to work towards.

    Like the others, I thank you for keeping us aware of what's happening in Europe, good and bad.

  16. I'll be very interested to follow the progress. Thanks for keeping us updated.

    I too am very curious about the 8% dog ownership rate in Germany. Does that mean that only 8% of the population is capable of being what's considered a responsible caregiver under the laws? Or that only 8% are willing to follow the regulations? Or is something entirely different going on?

    Could definitely see Canada going this direction in the future. I'm a little less certain about the U.S. and Mexico.

  17. @Edie
    That summarizes it perfectly!

    Ha! that is haunting me too. I let you know when I found out of more what lays behind.
    Why do you think the U.S. and Mexico will not go in that direction?

  18. At least you all are making a plan, and a noble one at that. Looking forward to your updates on the issue.

  19. I think EU has enough influence and resource that it CAN make a difference.

    It's awesome that they do pay attention to this! Very exciting. I'm proud to come from Europe :-)

  20. @Vicky
    Thanks Vicky. To be honest it came a little as a surprise they were able to pull this off and get a plan. It is postive indeed.

    Absolutely, when the make new directives there is not much an indivudual country can do about it!
    Glad it made you proud :)

  21. thanks for making me aware! an ambitious proposal--heartening.

  22. Wow - it would be so amazing if this went through! I hope it does!

  23. Thanks for posting about this.

    This is the kind of thing that makes me very nervous. In my mind, defining a 'puppy mill' is difficult. I have concerns that maybe legitimate breeders will be influenced by this. I also have hesitations, overall, with any more legislation regarding dogs... As we know, only those responsible 'pay' in the end.

    Regardless, still something to watch with interest. Measures such as these are only as effective as their enforcement, so this will be vital to their success (or otherwise).


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