Identification and registration of dogs and cats

Many of the risks cats and dogs face in Europe, in particular the illegal pet trade and the way stray animals are treated, are connected to poor identification and registration practices.

Mandatory identification and registration (I&R) are essential when it comes to:

  • Traceability

  • Responsible ownership

  • Combating illegal or criminal activities

  • Managing stray cat and dog populations

  • Avoiding public health risks 

  • Combating zoonotic disease outbreaks if they occur

In addition, while it is assumed that there are over 60 million dogs and 66 million cats in Europe, inconsistent I&R means those numbers may be no more than a poor approximation. 

Rules for the non-commercial movement of pets were first introduced in 2013 and require certain conditions to be met, such as the animal being microchipped and having a passport to prove vaccinations. Since then, though, there has been a meteoric rise in the number of people who are using this non-commercial system for the purely commercial trade of pet animals, particularly puppies. Large-scale evasion of controls and document falsification were uncovered by many organisations, including our own members.

If identification and registration are not consistent and not enforced across the countries, animals become part of the international criminal enterprise of breeding, transport and sales. Without proper oversight, these animals are treated cruelly and are not protected against diseases that pose serious human health risks. Smuggling networks are part of violent criminal organisations that also destabilise communities across Europe. 

Effective I&R with interconnected databases, combined with reaching out to European consumers who purchase or adopt these animals, is needed, while pet owners need to be educated about identification and registration to protect animals from abandonment and becoming strays. The systematic punishment of animals through culling campaigns that take place in some countries is unacceptable.

red long hair cat

As highlighted in the  Eurogroup for Animals recently published report Illegal Pet Trade: Game Over, based on the workshop of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, pets must be microchipped and registered in interconnected databases.

Microchipping alone can still lead to animals dropping off the radar and becoming victims to people and networks who do not properly care for them. Hence registration is the key, and should go hand-in-hand with identification.


Microchipping is becoming more and more popular as a way to ensure that no companion animal is neglected and that traceability is ensured in case of need. Our member organisations Dyrenes Beskyttelse, Dierenbescherming and Cats Protection’s ongoing campaigns aim to further increase awareness of the importance of microchipping for cats. 

According to our report Illegal Pet Trade: Game Over, 98% of the public including a majority of the Ministries, believes that all cats and dogs in Europe should be identified by a microchip, and their owners’ details registered in a database so that both can be traced. Such enforced traceability would be very helpful also in the case of pandemics (90%).


There are two key EU  legislations regulating the requirements for pet owners transporting pets between Member States. Regulation 576/2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals, and the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which stipulates that cats and dogs must have a microchip, hold a passport and be inoculated against rabies, but it does not cover mandatory registration and is limited to animals traded cross border.

Articles 109 and 118 of the Animal Health Law allow the European Commission to lay down rules on minimum mandatory requirements for both means and methods of identification and registration, and for data exchange methods between different systems. Many stakeholders have been lobbying the European Commission to put mandatory I&R for dogs in place, to no avail. 

At present a number of Member States have made I&R mandatory for dogs, while in others it is lacking or only limited to certain groups of dogs (e.g. commercially traded dogs). Currently, mandatory I&R for cats is lagging behind that of dogs.

Many countries have established workable databases, while in others, several non-compatible databases exist. At the EU level, no official European database or system enabling to connect or access national data exists. Some private initiatives have been launched to fill this gap, such as EUROPETNET.