The Dogs Trust of Great Britain recently presented to the Commission the findings of an undercover investigation into the illegal smuggling of puppies from Eastern Europe into the UK for sale. Along with the findings were a number of recommendations about tightening existing regulations.
A second investigation by Dogs Trust, published in July 2015, found that breeders, dealers and vets in Lithuania and Romania continue to regularly exploit the EU legislation in order to ‘illegally’ import puppies into the UK for commercial purposes.
A key recommendation in both reports is for the inspection programme of the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) to include auditing compliance with EU Regulation No 576/2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals.
1. In light of this additional evidence, can the Commission confirm whether it will include auditing compliance with EU Regulation No 576/2013 in its inspection programme for 2016?
2. Will this include auditing movements between Member States as well as entries into Member States from third countries?
The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carried out a series of audits between 2010 and 2012 in 16 Member States, covering amongst others the non-commercial movements of pets. These audits focused on the ability of the official controls to prevent the introduction of animal diseases via non-commercial movements of animals. An overview report was published in 2013. The FVO received information on the actions taken or planned to be implemented by the Member States to address the recommendations issued after the audits, which was deemed satisfactory.
Smuggling and illegal intra-union movements of pets often escape the controls by the veterinary services, as by their nature, those activities are often difficult to detect by official controls. However, the awareness of the official services is an essential contributor in detecting those movements.
In this context, the FVO considers that auditing the compliance of the official controls with the legislation is not the most effective way to increase awareness and, consequently, to reduce the possibility for fraud.
The FVO proposes to discuss the point of illegal non-commercial movements of pets in the next meeting of the national contact points for animal welfare during transport which is to take place 1-3 December 2015. This discussion should allow the identification of best practices in tackling such illegal trade and will be followed up firstly by sharing these practices and intelligence with the authorities involved in the different Member States. Then the Commission, together with the Member States, can review in 2016 whether such controls have been successfully improved and decide on further steps in this area.