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EU Court of Justice Provides Clarity on Cross-Border Pet Movements

04 December 2015

EU - The EU Court of Justice has revealed a preliminary ruling providing ‘final clarity’ on the rehoming of pet animals across internal EU borders.

The request for a preliminary ruling came from proceedings pending before the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court, Germany) between Pfotenhilfe-Ungarn, a German animal protection association, and the Ministry of Energy Transition, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas of Schleswig-Holstein.

Pfotenhilfe-Ungarn has transported stray dogs from Hungary to Germany with a view to rehoming them with third parties for a fee.

The Ministry believed that such movements constituted an economic activity, and took the view that Pfotenhilfe-Ungarn was therefore disregarding laws relating to the commercial movement of animals.

Pfotenhilfe-Ungarn claimed that as the transport is not carried out for profit, such movements should be covered by the non-commercial Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

The Court has ruled that such cross-border rehoming activities are indeed classed as a commercial movement, regardless of whether that activity is for profit or not.

Commenting, Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals said: “Whist many organisations undertake fantastic work rehoming pet animals throughout the EU, I am pleased that the Court of Justice has today reaffirmed the opinion of the Advocate General that such movements must be registered via the commercial TRACES system, and that they should pay heed to the requirements of the Animal Transport Regulation.

“Eurogroup for Animals was pleased that the 2013 revision of the law governing the non-commercial Pet Travel Scheme explicitly stated that any cross-border rehoming activity constituted a commercial movement, and it is good that the Court has provided final clarity on this.

“Sadly, any misuse of the PETS, even if it’s not for profit, only creates further confusion at a time when we are witnessing an illegal, large-scale, organised and systematic abuse of the scheme for purely commercial purposes.”

Eurogroup for Animals is running a campaign at present (Protect Our Pets – www.protectourpets.eu), which aims to stop the illegal trafficking of pets via the PETS system, via the harmonisation of national registration and identification requirements for cats and dogs. The campaign has seen over 330,000 e-mails sent to MEPs, asking them to back a formal call to the European Commission for legislation on this – a move which is being led by Renate Sommer MEP.

“Eurogroup believes that pets should have the right to move freely with their owners throughout the Union, to be re-homed and transported, but this has to be done in a safe and proper manner, with systems that are properly respected and enforced” added Ms Hameleers.

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