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Food Safety

Welfare of dogs and cats

On 7 December 2023, the Commission adopted a proposal for new rules on the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability, as well as stricter rules for the protection of these animals during transport, via a respective proposal.

The demand for dogs and cats has grown considerably in recent years, leading to an increase in trade and online sales of these animals. Animal welfare standards currently vary across Member States and there is evidence suggesting suboptimal welfare conditions in the supply of dogs and cats in the Union, as well as evidence of illegal trade in these animals.

The proposal aims to establish uniform EU rules for the welfare of dogs and cats that are bred or kept in breeding establishments, in pet shops and in shelters. For the first time, minimum standards will apply for the housing, care and handling of these animals across the EU. Strict traceability requirements, along with possibility for automated checks when supplying takes place, notably through online means, will make it easier for authorities to control the breeding and trade of these animals and for prospective owners to verify the origin of their future pet, while increasing the chances that it will be physically and behaviourally healthy. Member States will need to offer training for animal handlers and anyone buying a dog or cat will be informed about the importance of responsible ownership. Imports of dogs and cats will have to meet equivalent welfare standards.

The legislative proposal is based on an analysis of the problems related to the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability, and on an assessment of the impacts of the main proposed changes. The findings are summarised in a Staff Working Document which builds on evidence collected from various Commission and external reports, such as the report from the European Food Safety Authority on the welfare aspects related to housing and health of cats and dogs in commercial breeding establishments, but also on evidence gathered in the context of consultations activities with stakeholders. The work of the voluntary initiative on the health and welfare of pets (dogs and cats) in trade, under the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, also contributed to the process.