The EU should take the extra step for better traceability and safe pet trade

Politicians, competent authorities, experts and consumers call for robust measures and legislation against the illegal trade in companion animals


Organized criminal networks broadly misuse EU legislation to traffic underaged and unvaccinated animals that have been bred in deplorable conditions. Online channels largely provide for anonymous and fast sales alike. In view of the growth pace of the online pet trade and cross-border movement the call for improved animal traceability and transparency across the supply chain is more relevant than ever.

On 21 April, the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Eurogroup for Animals brought together almost 100 experts and stakeholders from across the industry to join the Online Workshop “Illegal Pet Trade: Game Over”. Representatives of EU institutions, ministries, control authorities, universities, NGOs and veterinarians brood over the current system to examine loopholes in EU legislation, look into ways to address deficiencies in enforcement and identify opportunities for better control of the online trade. Split over Working Groups, the participants deep-dived into the specifics of the multi-faceted problems of the illegal trade. FOUR PAWS has been assigned to moderate the Working Group on Identification and Registration (I&R), which was attended by key experts in the field of traceability.

“It is absolutely essential that the European Commission takes decisive action to address the illegal online trade in companion animals, whose scale and manifold risks it has already acknowledged. We trust the Commission will fully use its powers under the Animal Health Law. There are also opportunities for safer online trade which should be considered when revising the Directive on Electronic Commerce and the Digital Services Act.” 

says Pierre Sultana, Director of the European Policy Office of FOUR PAWS / VIER PFOTEN.

The Animal Health Law and Delegated Regulation 2019/2035 brought a new level of protection for traded companion animals through the registration obligation for breeders. Still, the debate on traceability goes on, since the Act that could establish I&R for individual cats and dogs is pending. Measures, such as database connectivity across the EU were therefore discussed and the speakers attested the need for better enforcement. In view of the skyrocketing online trade, the Workshop additionally examined the opportunities afforded by the revision of the eCommerce Directive and Digital Services Act for comprehensive and binding provisions against the misleading advertisement, also setting the standards as per the responsibilities of platforms. Finally, participants discussed synergies between NGOs, public authorities and control bodies, as well as examples of Member State cooperation that successfully unveiled organized criminal networks and recovered lost taxes.

“To effectively regulate trade, FOUR PAWS suggested that only registered animals from traceable sellers are advertised in classified sites, which would essentially exclude illegal dealers from the market. The current system allows the cross-border movement of unregistered animals of unknown origin and health status. This is a real public health bomb and the clock is ticking”

says Pierre Sultana, Director of the European Policy Office of FOUR PAWS / VIER PFOTEN.

Georgia Diamantopoulou

EU Companion Animal Policy Coordinator

+32 2 74 00 888

Rue Ducale 29, 1000 Brussels


European Policy Office

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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