Will Flanders ban street dog adoptions from Spain and Romania?

The Flemish Council for Animal Welfare wants to ban the adoption of dogs from countries such as Romania and Spain. By doing so, it hopes to solve the problem of overcrowded shelters. However, many of the dogs in shelters come from Belgian dealers.

"Distance adoption, based on a photo and without strict screening of the potential adopters, increases the risk of impulse adoptions, while Flemish shelters are struggling with a structural overpopulation of dogs," the Council for Animal Welfare writes in its report.

The council highlights the increasing number of organisations offering animals from abroad. These dogs "do not always have the status of family dogs as they do in Western Europe", making them more likely to exhibit "deviant behaviour".

"There has been an explosion in recent years"

In 2021, 7,500 dogs ended up in Flemish shelters, compared to 5,500 in 2017. "There has been an explosion in recent years," Sébastien Tonneus of the Tienen shelter told Het Nieuwsblad.

"And that includes some dogs from abroad," he said. "We now have a waiting list for owners who want to give up their dogs, and we urge them first to contact the organisation they bought the dog from. But often, they are unable or unwilling to take the dogs back."

More confiscations

Not only is the number of dogs ending up in shelters increasing, but the number of confiscations is also rising, as Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) recently pointed out. These animals also have to be housed in shelters, leading to further overcrowding.

Weyts also pointed out that the pandemic and the financial crisis have had an impact on the situation. While animals were bought or adopted en masse during the pandemic, many have been abandoned.

In its report, the Council now points the finger at stray dogs from Spain and Romania as the cause of the overpopulation. However, Belgian dog dealers profited from the rush for pets during the pandemic. While most shops had to close as a precaution, they delivered puppies to people's homes. These animals, which come from countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, are not always in good physical and mental health.

Inadequate screening

While organisations bringing dogs from Spain and Romania to Belgium have been accused of failing to properly screen potential adopters, dealers don't ask any questions when people come in to buy a dog. As a result, an elderly couple could easily walk home with a Malinois, Husky or German Shepherd puppy, two breeds that require a lot of energy and strength from their owners once they reach adulthood. These are the breeds that often end up in shelters.


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