Concern about pet health and welfare due to unregulated online trade was at the heart of a joint letter sent in early June to EU Commissioners Andriukaitis (DG SANTE) and Ansip (Vice-President of the EU Commission and in charge of the EU Digital Single Market) by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) and FOUR PAWS International. In particular, the letter called upon the EU Commission to establish, through EU legislation, eight measures aiming to enable the responsible selling and buying of animals online, and more precisely to improve the traceability of sellers and of the animals being sold.
In reply to the letter, the Commissioners recalled the existence of current legislation, in particular that covering the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets, the (new) Animal Health Law and the E-Commerce Directive.
National enforcement "not enough"
"We appreciate that EU Commissioner Andriukaitis made clear that under the new Animal Health Law, any keeper of dogs and cats for commercial purposes will be required to register his establishment, even if he is not the owner and keeps the animals only on a temporary basis. However, it is disappointing that the EU Commission doesn't intend to go further and will be relying on the Member States for proper enforcement of this new legislation. Research into 42 classified ad sites in 10 countries carried out by FOUR PAWS has clearly revealed that this is not enough."
Pierre Sultana, Director of the FOUR PAWS European Policy Office
Indeed, several loopholes in EU legislation and its enforcement have been identified by the FOUR PAWS Pet Deception Campaign (www.petdeception.org) and by the joint FVE, UEVP and FECAVA report 'Working towards responsible dog trade'.
Rafael Laguens, President of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), commented: “Citizens expect the EU to play an important role in helping Member States to protect the licit economy against financial and tax fraud, unfair competition and organised crime behind the Illegal trade of companion animals. Especially as this trade is more than just a financial deal. It deals with living beings, caring owners and relates to the cross-border spread of infectious and zoonotic diseases, consumer protection and animal cruelty. This is why the regulation of online animal trade is imperative and action should be taken urgently.”
President Jerzy Gawor, FECAVA president, stressed: "Profit should never take priority over animal health and welfare or public health and should never harm the consumer. Therefore, FECAVA urges EU legislators to regulate standards of dog breeding and trade, including over the internet. To facilitate enforcement and to protect consumers, public health as well as animal health and welfare, we furthermore ask to render the identification and registration of dogs mandatory throughout Europe."
Organisations call for ‘seller registration’
"With the switch from newspaper ads to the internet, sellers have been able to reach a much wider audience of potential buyers, on both a national and international level. Furthermore, sellers do not have to register with classified ad sites, which means that they remain anonymous. This has led to a big increase in illegal activities such as the selling of illegally imported puppies and exotic animals."
Julie Sanders, Director of the FOUR PAWS Companion Animals Programme
FVE, FECAVA and FOUR PAWS International are therefore calling on classified ad sites to introduce seller registration to protect both the public and the animals being sold.
Protection for animals and buyers
The organisations will continue to lobby for a mandatory registration system as part of the new Animal Health law, where breeders and sellers are not only registered but are also legally obliged to show their registration number when selling an animal online. In addition, the registration details should be held on a publicly accessible database, so that buyers can check if the breeder or seller they are buying from is registered. This will mean that buyers and sellers can be traced, giving consumers some protection.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org