The new Animal Welfare Strategy of the EU Commission intends to strengthen enforcement of animal welfare legislation in the coming years. Nonetheless, better enforcement is first and foremost a national issue as Member States are the first responsible. Past experiences have shown that poor enforcement is often a result of a lack of legal information in general and of systematic cooperation of official veterinarians with lawyers in specific. Unsufficient animal welfare education of jurists (lawyers, prosecutors, judges…) due to a lack of animal welfare legal studies offer is another reason.
The European Enforcement Network of Animal Welfare Lawyers and Animal Welfare Commissioners has been created on 13th June 2012, as an outcome of the Conference "Enforcement of Animal Welfare related Legislation", organised by VIER PFOTEN – Stiftung für Tierschutz and Eurogroup for Animals with the support of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the German Juridical Society for Animal Welfare Law (DJGT), Stiftung für das Tier im Recht, the Free University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Istituto G Capporale Teramo.
The conclusion of the Conference underlines that inadequate enforcement is a severe problem in almost all animal welfare related EU legislation. The necessity to have better consideration of the general EU animal welfare principle at all levels, laid down by Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty TFEU, has been also outlined as well as the need for a common European understanding of animal welfare and an enhanced culture of compliance and enforcement.
Considering all these points, a group of animal welfare lawyers has decided to establish a professional and dynamic network in order to improve the enforcement of EU animal welfare legislation at the national level. This network aims to share knowledge, experiences and specific information such as court decisions about enforcement of EU animal welfare legislation in Europe in order to identify best practices and to give a contribution for the development of the first Enforcement Strategy of the EU in the line of the upcoming EU Animal Welfare Framework Law and the EU Animal Welfare Strategy. Starting 2013, several educational tools might be used for this purpose, including the organisation of roundtables, conferences etc.
On the long term, the main goal of this network is to strengthen animal welfare in all Member States.