European Pet Night Highlights Continuing Animal Needs
I recently joined a host of EU decision makers, fellow animal welfare NGOs, veterinarians and most importantly 11 dogs in the beautiful surroundings of the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels for the Annual European Union Pet Night.
There was much excitement in the room amongst the attendees following the announcement earlier in the year that pet animals would finally be dealt with at the European level. However, the happiest attendees at pet night were undoubtedly the pets themselves who seemed to be in a real party mood! The dogs were clearly the stars of the night and they managed to keep their spotlight.
Indeed, the most moving moment of pet night was hearing Neil Woodmansey, of the Lincolnshire (UK) Fire and Rescue Team, talk about how he and his rescue dog Holly joined search and rescue teams from across Europe to help the victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti. Neil and Holly helped pull more than 100 people out of the wreckage from the earthquake at some risk to their own lives.
This heart-warming tale brought home to me how companion animals not only provide their owners with unconditional love, but often play a vital role in protecting us when we are in need. From specially trained dogs who can sense when their owners are about to have an epileptic fit to dogs which can sense early stage cancer, these animals have proven to us that they truly are man’s best friend. However hearing this story and speaking to the attendees at Pet Night also brought home to me that despite the loyalty shown to us by these animals, human beings often repay this with cruel negligence.
Even in the EU there are large discrepancies in the national and regional rules governing the welfare of dogs and cats. Last year this was highlighted by an investigation carried out by the Dutch IFAW office into the illegal puppy trade from eastern Europe to the Netherlands. IFAW produced a film based on undercover footage gathered at breeders’ and traders’ premises in Hungary and in the Netherlands. The footage showed shocking breeding conditions in Hungary, fraudulent practices involving vaccination passports and brutal, illegal cross-border trafficking where puppies suffered in closed unventilated vans for16 hours at a time without access to food and water.
That is why I am pleased that the European Union is finally taking this issue seriously by seeking to create systems at the European level that will guarantee the welfare of these animals. There is still a long way to go we’ll be fighting for our loyal four legged friends. By the next Pet Night in January 2012, I hope that we will have in place a genuine commitment that will have the owners of the pets just as happy as those 11 dogs at this year’s pet night. -- SS