Crisis at wildlife shelters: how can the EU help?

At AAP Foundation we work hard every day to give sheltered animals a dignified future. But that is not all. We are also building a European network so that animals in need can quickly find a suitable shelter.

That may be AAP, but sometimes another place is closer or more specialized in the care of a particular species. For that network to work properly, there is an urgent need for clear legislation and sufficient funding. To identify the issues we published a report rapport (in English) on the important role that rescue centers like AAP play in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

This report laid the groundwork for a conference on the issue, which took place on November 13 at the European Parliament in Brussels. There, members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, representatives of the member states and animal welfare organizations endorsed our conclusion that more help and European cooperation is needed to combat illegal trade and to address the current shortage of shelter capacity.

David van Gennep, who in addition to being managing director of AAP is also chairman of the board of the European Alliance of Rescue Centres and Sanctuaries (EARS): “Our efforts as a rescue network working with enforcement agencies is often hampered by unclear or unevenly applied legislation across the EU. We also suffer from outdated regulations that do not fit the dynamic nature of wildlife rescue and, of course, a structural deficiency of financial resources.”

Together with the Eurogroup for Animals and EARS, we called attention to the various challenges. Lack of space is the most important according to our research. Throughout Europe, there is a high demand for shelters for confiscated or surrendered exotic animals. This shortage is mainly due to the growing illegal trade in wild animals and the exploding demand for exotic pets, which are often abandoned once they reach adulthood. The introduction of new, important legislation such as a ban on wild animals in circuses also requires a lot of shelters. But as the number of rescue requests increases and the number of shelters remains limited, providing proper accommodation for these animals becomes increasingly challenging. “Unfortunately, in most cases these animals cannot be released into the wild. Good rescue centers are therefore of great importance to help the authorities identify these animals, provide them with suitable transport and accommodation, and ultimately care for them,” said Martin Hojsík, MEP and host of the event which he organized with MEP Anja Hazekamp, president of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.

The report presented, entitled Breaking Point: Solving the European Wildlife Rescue Crisis, also contains proposals for improvement. It calls on the EU and its member states to increase funding for these shelters and to support them in their activities. The document also asks the EU to develop well-aligned guidelines for the member states and country-specific action plans for the rescue of exotic animals. In addition, the report stresses that the EU should ensure consistent interpretation of rules and regulations related to the rescue of exotic animals.

“In the final evaluation of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trade, which is expected in 2020, the EU should provide consistent support to appropriate rescue centers across Europe to ensure that animals can be properly cared for in the long term,” concludes Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals and one of the speakers at the event.

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