Stray dog

Why is mandatory identification and registration for all cats and dogs so important? 

The European Union is currently putting in place new rules for the protection of cats and dogs. But as it stands, loopholes for cruelty remain.


As the European Union considers new rules for the welfare of cats and dogs, one aspect stands out as critically important: mandatory Identification & Registration (I&R) for all cats and dogs, including strays. This step is not just a bureaucratic necessity but a moral and practical imperative that can bring immense benefits to animals, owners, and society as a whole. Here’s why: 

Easing administrative burden

In the long term, implementing mandatory I&R will significantly ease the administrative burden on national authorities. When all cats and dogs are registered, tracking their movements, ownership, and health history becomes streamlined and efficient. This uniform system reduces the chaos and inefficiencies currently faced by authorities managing unregistered animals across borders. 

Curbing abuse in non-commercial movement 

Without mandatory Identification and Registration (I&R), the non-commercial movement of pets can be exploited. Current rules allow up to five animals to be legally transported across EU borders for purposes like holidays or moving, under less stringent conditions. Illegal traders misuse these rules to trade animals instead of following the stricter regulations for commercial trade. These regulations require the animal to come from a registered establishment, undergo a clinical examination before dispatch, be accompanied by a health certificate issued by an official veterinarian, and have its movement notified to the competent authorities through the TRACES system. But traders can bypass enforcement controls by showing animal passports, claiming the animals are their private pets. It's important to note that these passports are easily replaceable paper documents. Without an EU requirement to reliably link the microchip number of an animal with its breeder or owner in a database, tracing the animal back to the responsible person is impossible. Since owner registration is not mandatory in the EU, traders will continue to exploit this loophole to sell "private pets."

Although the European Commission itself identified exactly this problem, through its Coordinated Control Plan and EU Enforcement Actions in 2018 and 2023, the current legislative proposal does nothing to remove the loopholes that allow for this abuse of rules, fostering illegal trade and exploitation. By ensuring that all cats and dogs are identified and registered, authorities can crack down on these abuses, ensuring the welfare of the animals and maintaining the integrity of the pet trade within the EU. 

Puppy trade confiscation in Germany

Puppy trade confiscation in Germany

Enhancing data reliability and public health

When I&R is only required for animals involved in economic activities, the data collected becomes less reliable. The registration of animals at a later age, is susceptible to manipulation, with crucial information about their age, origin, and health being lost. This lack of reliable data can pose public health risks, as unregistered animals may carry diseases without any traceable health records. Comprehensive I&R ensures that valuable health and veterinary data is accurately recorded and accessible. 

Protecting stray animals 

Stray animals are let down again and again. The new (and first) regulation aimed at improving the welfare of cats and dogs might leave strays outside of its scope despite strays being a major problem in the EU and already part of economic activity, notably when their management outside of an establishment is assigned to service providers through contracts and public competitions.  

Stray animals, often overlooked, are among the most vulnerable. In countries like Romania and Greece, there are hundreds of thousands of stray dogs. The EU Dog & Cat Alliance estimates that 5.5 million dogs and 6 million cats enter shelters in Europe each year, with many more living on the streets. Without mandatory I&R, their origins cannot be traced, and they remain unprotected and prone to neglect and abuse. Although EU citizens have voiced their concerns over the welfare of stray animals, the European Commission has chosen to leave them behind. 

Reuniting lost pets with their owners

The risk of losing pets, particularly cats, is a constant worry for owners. Statistics from the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF) reveal that 10% of pets go missing each year. In the UK, Petlog found that 16% of pet owners reported losing a cat at some point. Between January 2023 and June 2024, nearly 5,000 dogs and over 20,000 cats were reported missing, with 74% of dogs and 62% of cats reunited with their owners thanks to up-to-date microchip information. In many EU Member States where microchipping isn’t compulsory, the reunion rates are much lower. Mandatory I&R can drastically improve these outcomes, giving peace of mind to pet owners and ensuring lost pets find their way home.

Promoting responsible ownership

I&R plays a crucial role in responsible stray population control. It discourages abandonment by making it possible to trace animals back to their owners. This traceability acts as a deterrent against irresponsible ownership and abandonment, fostering a culture of accountability among pet owners. 

Economic benefits

Investing in I&R is a long-term economic benefit. Stray population control incurs significant public revenue spending. By implementing I&R, authorities can more effectively manage and reduce stray populations, ultimately leading to cost savings and more efficient use of public resources. 


Mandatory Identification & Registration for all cats and dogs in the EU is not just a regulatory formality but a necessary step towards ensuring the welfare of our furry companions. It protects pets, aids in the reunification of lost animals with their owners, controls disease spread, promotes responsible ownership, and eases administrative burdens. As the EU moves forward with its legislative proposal for a regulation on cats and dogs, it is crucial that decision-makers recognise the immense benefits of mandatory I&R and act to include all cats and dogs, including strays, in this vital regulation. 

Let’s ensure that no cat or dog is left behind. 

Georgia Diamantopoulou

Georgia Diamantopoulou

Companion Animal Policy Coordinator

Rue Ducale 29, Brussels


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