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Administrative and criminal lawyer Jaap Baar (Kuyp Baar Advocaten in Utrecht) specializes in animal law. He assists, among other things, foundations that want to enforce better enforcement of animal welfare or that are faced with enforcement measures in their efforts to improve animal welfare. For example, Baar supports foundations that care for sick and injured animals. For example, they have to deal with enforcement because of the administration of certain medicines. « Only a veterinarian is allowed to do this, but if such an organization has to go to a veterinarian for every sick or injured animal, the costs will increase very quickly. »
Enforcement of the rules on animal welfare has intensified considerably in recent years, partly due to the arrival of the animal police, which takes action against mistreatment of animals, provides assistance and tries to prevent animal suffering. In addition, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and the independent National Animal Protection Inspectorate Foundation (LID) supervise animal welfare. The NVWA focuses on commercial animal keepers. It has various criminal and administrative options for enforcement. For example, in the event of a violation, it can impose a written warning, an administrative fine or an order subject to a penalty. In more serious cases, an animal can be confiscated. The NVWA employs several inspectors who carry out inspections at companies.
According to Baar, the NVWA was less likely to enforce it during the corona period. Especially in the first months of the corona crisis, he had at least fewer enforcement cases. « For example, there were no rechecks in cases where I had expected them or in which I had asked for an audit on behalf of my client. »
An enforcement measure such as the seizure of an animal is drastic, according to Baar, who has a Swedish shepherd and two rabbits of his own. In such cases emotions often run high. When many hearings took place digitally due to the corona measures at the start of the corona crisis, he therefore asked several times – with success – to handle cases about animals at a physical session. Animals are sentient beings, he emphasizes, pointing to Article 1.3 of the Animals Act, in which the intrinsic value of the animal is anchored. The Civil Code also states that animals are not business. By invoking those provisions, Baar therefore often argues that the criminal seizure procedure does not lend itself to live animals, but has so far been unsuccessful.
Risks to health
Baar also assists organizations that work for neglected animals abroad by bringing them to the Netherlands to offer them a better life. In recent decades, the trade in animals and animal products has increased significantly. There are strict rules for this. For example, an animal must be vaccinated and may only enter the Netherlands 21 days after vaccination. « Customs and enforcement authorities are very strict about this, especially when it comes to high-risk countries where the rules are known to be tampered with regularly. »
On April 21, a European animal health regulation will enter into force that will combine dozens of directives and regulations to prevent and combat animal diseases such as rabies. Baar is surprised that this new regulation no longer focuses on animal welfare. According to him, this is already apparent from the first article, which states that the regulation should improve animal health in support of sustainable agricultural and aquaculture production in the EU and an effectively functioning internal market.
More property disputes
Lawyer and animal engineer Iaira Boissevain specializes in veterinary and ‘practical’ animal law and had her own legal consultancy for many years. Since 2013 she has been a lawyer at Bruggink & Van der Velden Advocaten Tax Advisers in Utrecht. She is also a lecturer in animal and veterinary law at the study Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University. In her practice she is involved in veterinary law and administrative law, such as cases about noise nuisance caused by animals. She also acts in disputes about liability and ownership. She saw these property conflicts increase significantly in corona time. « I don’t know if this is a result of the corona crisis, but it is striking. »
She regularly assists victims of attacks by aggressive dogs in criminal proceedings. “Soon the weather will be nicer and people will go outside more. Then the number of cases about such incidents will increase again. ” She believes that the government has closed more and more areas to dogs in recent decades, leaving only “stamp areas” where they can be released. This creates problems, says Boissevain, who owns two shelter dogs and trains tracker dogs as a hobby.
Ticking time bombs
Those issues also touch upon another issue that Boissevain has been drawing attention to for years: the so-called ‘high-risk’ dogs such as pit bulls and staffords, which she believes were bred to attack and kill. « They are ticking time bombs, » she said in an article Faithful in March. Boissevain therefore argues for a ban on keeping, breeding and importing and for an obligation to muzzle.
There was such a ‘pit bull ban’ for fifteen years: all animals of this breed had to be registered and sterilized and were only allowed to be muzzled and on a leash. This ban was lifted in 2008 by former Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg because the number of incidents involving dogs did not decrease. But that conclusion was wrong, Boissevain argues, because dogs that are a mix of the pit bull breed and other high-risk dogs were not banned at the time.
Boissevain also argues for proper registration. Victims can now only report to the police. Municipalities can impose a muzzle obligation and, in an extreme case, remove the dog from the owner and place it in a shelter. “But the declaration is not even included in at least 90 percent. Moreover, the imposition of a measure is a discretionary power for municipalities. Many municipalities do nothing with it. ” And a muzzle obligation only applies in the municipality that imposes it.
Some municipalities do keep records, such as Zwolle. There, the number of incidents where a dog bit an animal or human in corona time has nearly doubled, it reported. The Stentor in February. Last year 43 biting incidents were registered, with six human victims. In addition, a potentially dangerous dog was reported 24 times, an increase of 400 percent.
In the Netherlands, the protection of animals is so advanced that we almost only see animals as victims and not as perpetrators, Boissevain writes in an article in Ars Aequi of 20 November. Practice and jurisprudence show a striking long-suffering towards the perpetrators, as a result of which they can again attack humans or animals, says Boissevain. “A kind of perpetrator cult has emerged,” she says. “Attacking and biting has become normal, you just have to take that into account as a private individual. Apparently more casualties are needed before this changes. » She therefore hopes for a minister “with common sense” who will tackle this.
That the attention to animal welfare sometimes goes very far, is also apparent, according to Boissevain, from a case of an over eighty-year-old ill client. “Five animal police officers came to visit her early in the morning to pick up her fourteen-year-old dog because the neighbors had complained that it was not being properly cared for. A disproportionate approach. They could have just talked to her first. Ultimately, no enforcement measure was imposed and agreement was reached on a different solution, in which the dog was returned and the situation was then monitored. ”
Lawyer for breeders
Just like Boissevain, Linda Joosten, attorney at Verweij Advocaten in Nijmegen, also sees the number of property disputes about dogs and cats increasing. Joosten offers breeders of dogs and cats legal assistance. She also runs a dog school with her husband and a friend. She advises on, among other things, regulations regarding purchase and sale and disputes about liability and ownership. She had more business in recent months, especially about the placement of a dog in host families by breeders. Breeders can decide to do this for a variety of reasons. Often agreements are not properly recorded, which can lead to disagreements afterwards.
Joosten notices in her area that the demand for dog puppies has risen sharply in the corona period, with large price increases as a result. « More and more people who own a bitch want to try out a litter. »
According to her, many people do not realize that breeding animals quickly occurs. “I regularly give lectures at breed clubs and when I ask participants whether they breed animals for hobby or commercial purposes, about 95 percent answer ‘hobby-based’. But even if you have a litter once or twice a year, according to current regulations, commercial breeding can quickly take place and you have to meet all kinds of requirements.
Because certain hereditary abnormalities seriously affect the welfare of animals, specific welfare criteria apply to the breeding of companion animals, such as the so-called ‘short snouts’. To promote compliance, the NVWA carries out inspections on breeders, which sometimes detect violations. For example, the dogs have a much too short muzzle and clearly audible breathing, a sign that the animals are short of breath. Joosten regularly receives questions about the regulations. « If a breeder has bred a certain breed for years and the government is now imposing restrictions, I can imagine that this will cause uncertainty. »
More and more often, Joosten hears from breeders that breeding has not become any more fun, partly due to the growing number of rogue traders who are responding to the explosive increase in the demand for puppies since Corona, but mainly because of her increasing ‘claim culture’. “It often happens that a buyer buys a puppy for hundreds of euros and asks ten times in compensation if there is a problem with it. Especially for someone who has one litter per year, the costs can be so high. ”