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If you keep animals in the Netherlands, you must be aware of the animal welfare requirements 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. However, if you breed animals or keep them as a hobby, you can apply to your municipal authority for an exemption from this ban.
General animal welfare requirements (in Dutch) apply to all production animals kept by farmers. Separate regulations apply to the keeping of commercial animals, such as cattle, pigs and broiler chickens. Since 2013, there has been a ban on starting mink farms (in Dutch) and mink farming will be phased out by 1 January 2024. As of 1 January 2019, there will be a ban on the trimming of beaks (in Dutch) of chickens and turkey, but not broiler chickens. And from 1 September 2021 a ban will be introduced on removing the back claw/spur of roosters and turkeys and the nose flap of pheasants.
If you breed, buy, sell or board pet animals, strict rules apply to identification, vaccination programmes and the minimum dimensions of animal housing units. These rules apply to breeders, traders in animals, pet supplies stores, animal rescue centres and boarding kennels. You need to apply for a unique business number (UBN) (Dutch) to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl).
Sale of pet animals
If you sell pet animals:
- you may not sell them to persons under 16
- you may not display them in your shop window
- you must provide written information to the buyer
- you must be skilled
Breeding pet dogs
If you breed pet dogs, puppies must be microchipped by the time they are 7 weeks old and then registered in an approved database within 1 week. If you import dogs, they must be registered within 2 weeks, regardless of their age.
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 since 29 December 2014 and are not accepted.
If you want to bring young dogs, cats and ferrets into the Netherlands, you must get 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 vaccin is active.
Separating young animals from their mother
The Animal Keepers Decree (Besluit houders van dieren) stipulates minimum ages 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. Please note that this list is not up-to-date. At present there are no further requirements for the animals on this list. A new pet animals list is being drafted.
You are no longer allowed to use wild animals in circus acts as well as transport these animals for this purpose. However, there are several exceptions, such as animal acts in zoos or marine parks.
Dispensations and exemptions
You may request dispensation from the Minister of Economic Affairs for certain bans or regulations under the Animal Act. This dispensation or exemption will only be granted in extremely rare occasions. Your activities may not harm the 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 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.