As UK MEPs we receive a pretty regular postbag on various animal welfare issues. But it’s obviously not just Britain which is a nation of animal lovers. With the majority of MEPs across the 27 Members States recently signing a Written Declaration on the way dogs are treated in the EU, a clear message has been sent to the European Commission to come up with some new policies to address a serious problem.
Historically, there have been huge differences in animal welfare across the countries of Europe. The treatment of animals has, for the most part, been the responsibility of the member state, rather than the EU. In fact, until 1997, under EU law, animals were actually treated as goods rather than live creatures.
It was new EU treaties, however, which changed this. The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 introduced the concept of animals as “sentient beings”, and the much maligned Treaty of Lisbon actually incorporates this directly as an Article of the Treaty. As a result, it has made it possible to introduce much more legislation about the way we treat animals.
The Written Declaration supported by Parliament calls for compulsory micro-chipping of dogs along with an effective and reliable system of dog registration. This is not only crucial for successful animal health & welfare management, but should also lead to reuniting stray dogs with their owners, help prevent the illegal puppy trade and would allow better prevention of disease through vaccination, thus protecting human public health, as well as the health of our pets.
And through a more considered approach to controlling dog population through systematic neutering and educational strategies and programmes, we can prevent the awful killing of healthy animals, as has taken place in Romania.
Having been one of the early signatories to the Declaration, I’m delighted it has gained such support from Parliament. Dog-lovers everywhere now await some positive proposals from the European Commission.