Animal welfare requirements

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Do you keep animals in the Netherlands? You are responsible for their welfare. The animal welfare requirements are laid down in the Animal Act (Wet dieren) (in Dutch). The regulations differ according to the type of animal. Most municipal authorities ban keeping animals in large numbers. Do you breed animals or keep them as a hobby? You can apply to your municipal authority for an exemption from this ban.

Production animals

The general animal welfare requirements apply to all production animals kept by farmers. In addition there are requirements on housing and health (in Dutch). Separate regulations apply to the keeping of commercial animals, such as cattle, pigs, and broiler chickens.

You are not allowed to perform physical interventions on animals unless there is a medical necessity or in case of exceptions as described in the Veterinarian decree (Besluit diergeneeskundigen, in Dutch). There is a ban on the trimming of beaks (in Dutch) of chickens and turkeys, but not broiler chickens. There is also a ban on removing the back claw/spur of roosters and turkeys, and on removing the nose flap of pheasants.

Pet animals

If you breed, buy, sell or board pet animals professionally (in Dutch), strict rules apply. You must:

These requirements apply to breeders, traders, and intermediaries in animals, pet stores, animal shelters, and boarding kennels.

Breeding of pet dogs and cats

If you breed pet dogs and cats, the rules as stated above for breeding pets apply. Extra rules apply as well. A dog can have at most 1 litter per consecutive 12-month period. For cats this is at most 2 litters per 12 months and at most 3 in 24 months.

Registration of dogs and dog passports

All dogs must be registered in the Netherlands (in Dutch) and microchipped. Also every dog in the Netherlands should have a European pet passport. The passport should state:

  • where the dog is from
  • who is the breeder
  • which vaccinations it has had

Only veterinarians can issue dog passports. The passport is linked to the dog’s registration. Veterinarians and authorised microchipping professionals are responsible for the correct birth registration of dogs, instead of breeders.

Sale of pet animals

If you sell pet animals:

  • you may not sell animals to persons under 16
  • you may not display animals in your shop window
  • you must provide written information to the buyer

Importing pet dogs, cats and ferrets

If you import pet dogs, cats or ferrets, you must use a European pet passport issued by any authorised veterinarian. Passports without proper identification are not considered to be valid EU pet passports and are not accepted.

If you want to bring young dogs, cats, and ferrets into the Netherlands, you must have them vaccinated against rabies. They must be at least 12 weeks old when vaccinated against rabies for pet travel. You must then wait another 21 days from the date of your pet’s primary rabies vaccination before you can enter the Netherlands. This is to make sure the vaccine is active. Dogs and cats should also be microchipped. If you import animals from outside the EU, the animals need a heath certificate.

Separating young animals from their mother

The Animal Keepers Decree (Besluit houders van dieren) stipulates minimum ages (in Dutch) for separating dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and various types of non-human primates from their mother.

Pet animals list

There is a pet animals list (in Dutch) with animals that may be kept as pet without any further requirements. It is expected this list is effective from 1 July 2024. This means that you may keep animals on this list. Do you keep birds, amphibians, or reptiles? For these animals separate lists may be drawn up. Until then you may keep these animals.

Circus animals

You are no longer allowed to use wild mammals (scroll down for pdfs in English and German) in circus acts nor transport these animals for this purpose. However, there are several exceptions, such as animal acts in zoos or marine parks, and transportation of such animals through the Netherlands by foreign enterprises, provided the animals do not perform in the Netherlands.

Dispensations and exemptions

You may request dispensation for certain bans or regulations under the Animal Act through RVO. This dispensation or exemption will only be granted in very exceptional cases. Your activities may not harm the health or welfare of the animals.

Online application procedure via Message Box

Depending on the kind of dispensation or exemption, you can submit a request to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) or the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit, NVWA) via Message Box. Message Box is a secure email system that enables you as an entrepreneur to exchange digital messages with Dutch government agencies.