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Regulating Companion Dog Welfare: A Comparative Study of Legal Frameworks in Western Countries

Ann Milligan

Viewed: 589 times

Andersen SS, Meyer I, Forkman B, Nielsen SS, Sandøe P. Regulating Companion Dog Welfare: A Comparative Study of Legal Frameworks in Western Countries. Animals (Basel). 2021 Jun 2;11(6):1660. doi: 10.3390/ani11061660. PMID: 34199669; PMCID: PMC8228344.

Commentary: A hobby breeder's point of view

Of late the role of legislation in maintaining the welfare of companion animals has been receiving a good deal of attention within the Agricultural divisions in governments (federal, state or local) - these are the entities that are responsible for elucidating policy and may see to establishment of enforcement means and mechanisms that ensure regulations are adhered to.

The decisions made in creation of regulations spill over into various aspects of the dog keeping society - hobby dog breeders of purebreds or mixed breeds as well as pet owners are impacted.  The media and social media channels are quick to pick up on legal issues that impact the very fabric of lives spent in the company of dogs.  Animal Welfare Act's content/provisions related to management of animals are under increasing scrutiny and subject to amendments made by lawmakers in many countries. Who influences the legislatures? In some cases it is organizations such as Kennel and Breed Clubs, but often Animal Welfare Groups with massive international followings have considerable access to lobby legislators. Veterinarians and canine researchers weigh in. The sensibilities of and challenges faced by different stakeholders vary.

Several European countries have enacted 'new' regulations that restrict breeding in specific purebred dog breeds, restrict or place veterinary examination criteria on the exhibition of dogs at public events and there are the beginnings of provisions that regulate living conditions (exercise requirements, space, training...) that must be met by puppy sellers, breeders and owners. (See our article: Overview - Country Specific legislation - Welfare Laws which provides links to a few current country specific legislative matters that impact dogs.) The newly adopted or introduced regulations applying to companion animals may go well beyond those that have been the standard applied to operating procedures for government licensed commercial farmers, animal brokers, dealers, zoos, laboratories... farm animals/food source animals or for animals used for exhibition or in research.

There is nothing  inherently wrong with the press to see to the creation of new provisions in animal regulation that actually have a strong possibility of improving the health and welfare of all companion animals - noting that companion animal welfare has not been an area historically focused upon in Animal Welfare laws. Sadly, in this writer's opinion the new laws and regulations in some cases have fallen short in making substantial progress in the very reasons the regulations were made to exist in the first place - measurable improvement in health, welfare and the lives of all dogs - serving as pets and companions.

It's complicated!

Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs which have historically managed pedigree dogs, seen to welfare, public education and health matters in purebred dog breeds are in some cases grappling with governmental regulations that target particular breeds and their management. At this point in time Kennel and Breed Club affiliated breeders make up a relatively small percentage of breeders managing, producing and selling purebred and mixed breed dogs in most countries - sourcing is a consideration. (See resource materials below for perspectives.) There is a great deal of outrage, animosity and contentious commentary proliferating in the social media channels by those who seem to have taken sides in the 'fight' to see to the best possible welfare for dogs. Everybody wants the same thing - happy, healthy well cared for dogs - but how to get there with common sense and equitably address challenges is quite another matter.  Lawyers and the courts have become the venues responsible for sorting the latest challenges in companion dog welfare legislation. Courts do not typically resolve matters in a rapid manner.

More Info

We have previously written about the legislation topic in our article, Reframing Current Challenges Around Pedigree Dogs - "Legislative actions in Europe have provoked intense, confrontational responses within the pedigree dog community. Many within the dog show world see regulatory actions as attacks on their community and on all pedigree dogs, beyond the direct focus on brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds. Some government actions have been instituted somewhat unilaterally, without wide enough consultation; no doubt political agendas are involved. In some cases, stakeholder groups have welcomed any action as better than none, perhaps without clear evidence that they will effectively address broader concerns. However, many people who are committed to pedigree dogs as an integral and beneficial part of society see that there are problems in certain breeds that need to be addressed. Emotionally charged in-fighting or proclamations of being ‘at war’ with others weaken collective efforts to support the health and welfare of dogs in a meaningful way that is in line with the demands of society. All stakeholders have contributed in some way to the current situation; all have a role and responsibility to contribute to solutions."

doggy.PNGSo... what does all of this chatter have to do with the Research paper featured in this Blog, Regulating Companion Dog Welfare: A Comparative Study of Legal Frameworks in Western Countries? Well, it could be helpful for stakeholders working on laws and measures that see to welfare of companion animals to get a better sense of how different country's' governments approach regulations. This research provides a comparison of legislation with an impact on the welfare of companion dogs in eleven Western jurisdictions. The scope and the specificity of the regulations varies. Legislation in Austria, Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Australia-New South Wales, New Zealand, Sweden and the USA were looked at in this research. It is important to recognize that this study examines the legal norms but does not address the enforcement mechanisms of the rules so... the study does not give a full picture of the effects legal requirements actually have on the welfare of companion dogs.

"In each jurisdiction, the researchers identified and classified the dog-related legislation with reference to the following welfare issues:

  • Breeding of dogs with potentially adverse welfare characteristics;
  • Reproductive limits (on minimum age for mating and number of litters);
  • Sales (point of sale, minimum age for puppies on sale, and mandatory care instructions);
  • Surgical interventions (neutering, tail docking, ear cropping, and debarking);
  • Day-to-day handling by owners (design of indoor and outdoor environment, dog walking, duration of time spent alone, use of collars);
  • Killing (incl. euthanasia)."

Be sure to check out the Supplementary documentation Tables for specifics...tables legislation on welfare (1).pdf

The research provides links (Page 20 of the Supplementary Tables) to the country's commercial keeping, breeding and sales regulatory documents which are extremely helpful resources for anyone wanting to further examine provisions.

With so many countries moving forward enacting new provisions in regulations governing care and management of companion dogs including pedigree / purebred dogs and other pet / companion animals, all stakeholders who have or want to have influence over the actual text content and implementation of equitable and effective regulations - we suggest sharing of knowledge is needed - work together. Leadership is needed. Reaching a firm understanding of how existing health management system's (KC/BC based breeding strategies) and new or proposed legislation actually impacts health and welfare of companion animals in the sphere of society at large is critical. See our article, IPFD and Pedigree dogs - You want leadership - we are ready.

And please do check out the research paper mentioned here and our DogWellNet resources to gain a perspective on welfare in companion animals. Comments are welcome.

Other Resources IDHW - Supply and Demand Theme Presentations

tables legislation on welfare (1).pdf


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