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FOUR PAWS campaigns against the European Commission’s plans to classify stray domestic animals as “wild”


© FOUR PAWS | Yavor Gechev

International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign against European Commission plans to classify stray domestic animal, such as cats and dogs, as “wild animals” under a new European Animal Health Law.

The classification would give these animals a much lower legal protection than kept companion animals and could , in some situations, even offer legal grounds for allowing hunters to shoot at them, as has already been proposed in the past in various countries. Many European governments are yet to oppose this.

In response, FOUR PAWS has set up the ‘Wild me?!’ Campaign, which calls on European citizens to appeal to their responsible government ministries to stop this plan. An online protest has been launched, while digital protest cards are also available in order to support FOUR PAWS in stopping the legislative power from using this highly problematic definition, which will be discussed by the European Commission, the Council (representing the Member States) and the European Parliament, on February 5.

The new Animal Health Law has been welcomed by animal welfare advocates on the whole, as it is intended to replace and encompass most of the present EU legislation on animal health, striving for simplification and greater consistency under common principles and general rules. Moreover, it is calling for the identification and registration of all dogs in Europe – an effort highly welcomed by FOUR PAWS. But by defining stray dogs and cats as “wild” and thus lowering their legal protection it also seems to undermine years of progress in animal welfare.

“Dogs and cats are often perceived as an important part of the family. European citizens will never accept that a legal basis to shoot at their cats and dogs is available in a modern, civilised Europe,” warns Pierre Sultana, Director of FOUR PAWS European Policy Office in Brussels. FOUR PAWS’ aim is to encourage the European Commission and the Council to instead adopt a better-considered definition for stray animals than the one given in the proposal.

“The definition of strays as “wild” ignores the basic differences between wild and companion animals and does not acknowledge the thousands of years that it took to domesticate dogs and cats.  Domestication resulted in a behavioural change of these animals; stray animals continue to share the same space as humans and many are either first or second generation abandoned pets  Besides the animal welfare issues, the new definition also throws up some  legal concerns. “How is a hunter supposed to know if he is confronted with a wild or a kept cat or dog? When exactly does a companion animal become wild? How can the judge decide in which category an animal falls? Will it encourage hunting of cats and dogs? I am really concerned,” says Sultana.

EU citizens, who wish to raise their voice against this decision, can join the FOUR PAWS online protest and/or send the digital protest postcards to their representatives:


Find more information about the proposal for the new EU Animal Health Regulation here: (306th session; speaker Barbara Logar)