On 7 December 2023, the European Commission adopted for the first time a proposal for new rules on the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability, as well as stricter rules for the protection of these animals during transport and better housing and breeding practises.

The demand for dogs and cats has grown considerably in recent years, leading to an increase in trade and online sales of pets. Animal welfare standards currently vary across Member States and there is evidence suggesting suboptimal welfare conditions in the supply of dogs and cats in the Union, as well as evidence of illegal pet trade.

The proposal aims to establish uniform EU rules for the welfare of dogs and cats that are bred or kept in breeding establishments, in pet shops and in shelters. For the first time, minimum standards will apply for the housing, care and handling of these animals across the EU.

The proposal of national databases that must be interoperable at EU level. All cats and dogs must now be identified and registered by a veterinarian or qualified person. The proposal includes several measures to improve breeding practices, most notably a requirement for breeders to gain approval from competent authorities, with permission only provided after inspection, yet the frequency for such inspections is not yet defined. Approved establishments must be included by authorities in a public list, while caretakers need to obtain a certification following mandatory training.

Strict traceability requirements, along with possibility for automated checks when supplying takes place, notably through online means, will make it easier for authorities to control the breeding and trade of dogs and cats and for prospective owners to verify the origin of their future pet, while increasing the chances that it will be physically and behaviourally healthy. Member States will need to offer training for animal handlers and anyone buying a dog or cat will be informed about the importance of responsible ownership. Imports of dogs and cats will have to meet equivalent welfare standards.

The conclusions of the EU Animal Welfare Platform Voluntary Initiative on the health and welfare of pets (dogs and cats) and the EFSA’s opinion on housing and health have been acknowledged to a large extent. Cosmetic and convenience surgeries, including mutilations such as ear cropping and tail docking will be strictly prohibited, unless they are performed for medical reasons.

The proposal does fail, however, to address other important measures – such as a ban of sale of cats and dogs in pet shops, the abuse of artificial insemination, and sufficient actions to control extreme breeding: “minimising negative welfare consequences” may be too broad to be addressed as it deserves. An ownership ban, as well as a ban on the use of extreme featured breeds in the media and in exhibitions and competitions, could provide much better restrictions.

The need for these measures are highlighted in the findings of the EU enforcement actions on illegal pet trade, published yesterday, which shed light on the major routes for fraud concerns, and identified the challenges in tackling such trade. An estimated 438,000 dogs and 80 000 cats are offered at any given time online, with fraud still rampant. The report highlighted the importance of ongoing collaboration between member states as well as tools that can facilitate this.


Full proposal and PDFs

Welfare of dogs and cats – European Commission (europa.eu)

Proposal_welfare dogs and cats and their traceability_7.12.2023

Annexes_Proposal_welfare dogs and cats and their traceability_7.12.2023


Q&A on the welfare of dogs and cats

Q&A Welfare of Dogs and Cats (europa.eu)

Illegal movement of dogs and cats – illegal Pet trade

Illegal movement of pets – European Commission (europa.eu)


Protection of animals during transport

Animal welfare during transport – European Commission (europa.eu)

Additional documents:

PLS: Scientific and technical assistance on some aspects related to housing and health of cats and dogs in commercial breeding establishments | EFSA (europa.eu)

EFSA Journal – 2023 – – Scientific and technical assistance on welfare aspects related to housing and health of cats and (1)


(source: European Commission’s website and press release of Eurogroup for Animals)