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, so is the number of confiscations. This was recently announced by Animal Welfare minister Ben Weyts (N-VA). These animals must also be accommodated in shelters, leading to further overcrowding.

Weyts pointed out that the pandemic and the financial crisis have affected the situation. While animals were bought or adopted en masse during the pandemic, many have now been abandoned. He said the animal welfare council was looking at the issue.

The council concludes that it is mainly foreign dogs causing the overpopulation. ​ However, Belgian dog dealers also benefited from the rush for pets during the pandemic. While most businesses had to close as a precaution, they delivered puppies to people's homes. These puppies also came from countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary and were not always in good physical and mental health.

Inadequate screening

While organisations that bring foreign dogs to Belgium are blamed for not or inadequately screening potential adopters, dealers are also at fault for not asking questions of new owners. As a result, an elderly couple can go home with a Malinois or Rottweiler puppy, two breeds that require a lot of energy and strength from their owners once they reach adulthood. These breeds then often end up in shelters.

Although the council believes the overpopulation in shelters can be solved by banning adoption of dogs from Spain and Romania, it says more is needed to tackle the problem at its roots.


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