The First European Conference on 'The welfare of dogs and cats' in Brussels on 28 October 2013

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As announced in Issue 7 of the Animal Welfare Newsletter of the European Union the European Commission and the Lithuanian Presidency are organizing the First European Conference on “The welfare of dogs and cats” in Brussels on 28 October 2013.

The conference is divided into various presentations led by experts in Animal Welfare in the European Union.

In the Introduction, led by Dr. Paolo della Villa, the primary goal of the conference is established: the promotion if welfare of companion animals in the EU and abroad in the context of the EU Strategy for Animal Welfare developed in 2012. This strategy intends to harmonize the various national legislations of EU Member Countries to prevent fraud, exploitation, and the illegal transportation of animals, in an effort to control the spread of zoonotic diseases and effectively regulate breeding policies and marketing costs in a sector of significant economic activity.
Dr. Marlene Wartenberg, Director of the European Policy Office of Vier Pfoten (Four Paws), and Dr Barbara Alessandrini, Head of the International Centre for Veterinary Training and Information in the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise, lead the second presentation on “Responsible Ownership: what it means to care”. These two institutes, both collaborating partners with the Master in Animal Law and Society of the UAB, have established the CAROdog and CAROcat programs which assist in tracking efforts to educate owners on pet traceability, birth control and preventive veterinary medicine.

The third presentation, “Dog tags: pet ID and registration at national and EU level”, led by Dr Eric Van Tillburgh of the Federal Services of Public Health, the benefits of identifying and registering dogs in Europe. The process has allowed for investigations into illegal dog trading, for breeding standards to be standardized, and for lost dogs to be reunited with their rightful owners.

Claire Calder, a Policy Officer in the Eurogroup for Animals, discusses the issue of abusive breeding practices in the fourth presentation entitled “Familiarity breeds contempt: Abusive practices in the EU dog and cat trade”. The presentation tackles the topic of animals bred outside the home and how these breeding practices have been liked with high levels of fear in adult dogs and genetic abnormalities due to improper handling of genetic diversity among breeding population.

Finally, Dr. Jan Vaarten, Executive Direct of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, a collaborating entity with the Master in Animal Law and Society, discusses the topic of proper animal care in the presentation “The Welfare of Companion Animals”. The presentation starts with the five freedoms (freedom from hunger, from discomfort or disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from distress) and progresses to less obvious sources that can affect animal welfare, such as puppy breeding farms and animal transportation.

Overall, the conference focuses on three fundamental axes to improve companion animal welfare in Europe: Legislation, breeding and trade, and building compassion for Companion Animals in Europe. These are goals that are fully supported by the Master in Animal Law and Society of the UAB and we hope that as many people as possible can participate in this interesting conference.

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