Belgium Mandates Sterilization For All Cats
Belgium is taking steps to be the first country in the world that mandates spay/neutering and microchipping in cats, as they face an overwhelming feline overpopulation.
Like so many countries across the globe, overpopulation of cats is a huge problem in both shelters and feral communities. Estimates in Belgium suggest that 300,000 cats a year are abandoned, and as is the case in many other countries, there are simply not enough resources to take care of them. In Belgium, nearly half the cats that end up in shelters are ultimately euthanized, and so lawmakers are hoping new legislation will solve that sad problem as Belgium mandates sterilization.
New laws now require that cats be spayed or neutered, whether they are stray or family pet, before they are six-months-old. Older cats who have not been altered yet must be, and new cats that enter the country must be altered if their owners plan to stay in the country longer than 30-days. Additionally, the country will continue efforts to trap-neuter-and release (TNR) stray and feral cats in the countries.
Already, the region of Wallonia has mandated animal shelters to sterilize cats are brought in and have since 2013. Brussels and northern Flanders followed suit as they saw the success of sterilization and decline in stray and abandoned cats. Fueled by this decline, lawmakers have made the policy mandatory for the entire country, with the process to gradually take place and be implemented fully by 2020.
Cats must be registered in a database called CatID so that quick information about whether or not the cat is sterilized or not can be accessed. As of now, less than one percent (.7%) of the country’s cats are registered. Lawmakers are giving citizens time to register under the new laws, but a failure to spay or neuter their cats may end up in a fine of 50 Euros. The fines will be cumulative and could result in up to 10,000 Euros in total.
Veterinarians in the country say they’re already seeing more and more people bringing their cats in for the procedure, and are hopeful it will help take pressure off overburdened shelters.
Still, many believe that the lawmakers in the country don’t have the right to tell citizens how to take care of their pets, particularly those owners of cats who have high-dollar/exotic pedigrees and may want to breed responsibly. They believe the blanket policy will only end up hurting the cat population overall in the long run.
Belgian lawmakers plan to look at the impact of the new law in five years and decide what, if any, changes or stoppages should be made.