MEPs voted on new legislation this week in the areas to tackle animal diseases, such as African swine fever, more effectively and to restrict the introduction of dangerous new pests and enable the EU to act quickly but responsibly in emergencies. The legislation was adopted by the agriculture committee in two separate votes on Tuesday.

The legislation will increase the emphasis on prevention, for example with better animal husbandry and use of veterinary medicines, and tightened the rules on importing plant products that could pose a risk to public health in the EU.

It is hoped the new rules will help EU countries and animal and plant operators tackle dangerous animal diseases and the higher influx of pests stemming from increased trade and climate change.

The regulations approved on Tuesday, will merge some 50 pieces of legislation and update them to take on board recent scientific and technological advances.

In terms of animal husbandry the new rules are set to clarify the duties of farmers, traders and animal professionals, including veterinarians and pet keepers, to ensure the good health of their animals and prevent the introduction and spread of diseases.

The agriculture committee highlight however that more focus needs to be placed on prevention. To boost good animal husbandry and the proper use of veterinary medicines, MEPs proposed that member states should pay particular attention to antimicrobial resistance and ensure better access to professional training in this area when designing their national plans for the prevention and control of infectious animal diseases.

It cited as an example that veterinarians must provide proper explanations to farmers, traders and pet keepers of how to use antimicrobials responsibly. The adopted text also says animal operators should be subject to animal-health visits by a veterinarian to their premises with the aim of stopping emerging diseases from spreading through the EU market.

The committee also noted to tackle diseases that have a major impact on public health, agricultural production or animal welfare and health, such as Bluetongue, African swine fever or Avian influenza, the Commission must be empowered to adopt urgent measures.

But MEPs insist that both Parliament and Council must have proper scrutiny over the measures adopted and the possibility of repealing them if necessary.

More controls on stray dogs was also a key recommendation from MEPs. They said member states should set up mandatory registration schemes for stray animals, which are often responsible for transmitting animal diseases, by January 2018. They also suggest that the Commission could table a proposal concerning electronic databases for stray dogs throughout the EU by 31 July 2019.

Next steps for the draft legislation is that both texts will be scrutinised by the full house at the March or April plenary session.

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