Three years ago the Commission put forward a new proposal for an EU Animal Health Regulation. The purpose of the new regulation is to clarify, harmonise and simplify the current legislative jungle. Now, however, it appears that the regulation will be defective in a significant respect and that this defect will in many ways contradict the purpose of the regulation by placing feral animals at a disadvantage.
The regulation contains only two categories of animals, ‘wild animals’ and ‘kept animals’, the latter covering pets, domestic animals and animals kept for production. Feral animals, such as stray dogs and cats, are classified in the regulation as wild animals. Defining stray animals as wild is a major retrograde step in animal protection and thus also in animal health, as it makes it harder to sensibly for the situation of stray dogs in Eastern and South-East Europe, for example, to be managed sensibly.
Adding to the regulation a category of ‘non-kept animals’, referring to feral animals, i.e. those which have no home but are in one way or another dependent on humans, would permit the work of managing the situation of feral animals to be carried out effectively. In many European countries the situation of feral animals is worrying and affects the whole of society. Adding this category would give the EU the power to act on the problem of stray dogs, which has hitherto been a solely national responsibility, and would enable the EU to intervene, for example, in the disastrous situation of stray dogs in Romania. In its present form, the regulation makes the work of animal protection harder, by hindering, for example, the sensible and effective management of stray dog populations and making their environment even more hostile.
1. Why is there no category of ‘non-kept animals’ in the Animal Health Regulation?
2. Why does the Commission want to categorise stray animals as wild, instead of giving them their own category of ‘non-kept animals’?
The proposal for an Animal Health Regulation distinguishes two categories of animals: ‘kept animals’ and ‘wild animals’. The category of ‘wild animals’ is defined as ‘animals which are not kept animals’. In practice, this category would include stray or feral animals that are not kept by humans, whatever their species.
The proposal for an Animal Health Regulation is about transmissible animal diseases and not about animal welfare or animal protection. In that context, and depending on whether or not there is a person responsible for the keeping of an animal, the Commission distinguishes two categories of animals i.e. ‘kept’ and ‘wild’ animals. Stray animals, similarly to other feral animals and wildlife, have no responsible person to take care of them. In the absence of such a person, and where an intervention is needed and justified for these animals to protect animal or public health, special measures and resources for the prevention and control of diseases in such animals may need to be developed and mobilised. This in particular entails an aspect of a broader public concern. To address this specific issue, the Animal Health Regulation provides for the possibility for special measures to be developed equally for any animal without an identified keeper, regardless of the fact of whether they are feral animals or wildlife.