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Article Italy: New Legislation Implements EU Regulation on Transmissible Animal Diseases and Animal Health and Welfare

On September 12, 2022, the Italian Official Gazette published three legislative decrees issued on August 5, 2022 (Nos. 134, 135 & 136) implementing European Union (EU) Regulation 2016/429 of March 9, 2016, on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health.

Legislative Decree No. 134 concerns “the identification and registration system for operators, establishments, and animals.” EU Regulation 2016/429 defines “operator” as “any natural or legal person having animals or products under his responsibility, including for a limited duration of time, but excluding pet keepers and veterinarians.” (Art. 4, para. 24.) EU Regulation 2016/429 defines “establishment” as “any premises, structure, or, in the case of open-air farming, any environment or place, where animals or germinal products are kept, on a temporary or permanent basis, except for: (a) households where pet animals are kept; (b) veterinary practices or clinics.” (Art. 4, para. 27.)

Legislative Decree No. 135 deals with the trade, import, and conservation of wild and exotic animals; the training of animal operators and professionals; and the punishment of illegal trade in protected species. Legislative Decree No. 136 updates national legislation on the prevention and control of animal diseases that are transmissible to animals or humans.

Registration System for Operators, Establishments, and Animals

Legislative Decree No. 134 creates a national computerized database (Banca dati nazionale, BDN) at the Ministry of Health containing veterinary information to facilitate the traceability of animals. (L.D. No. 134, arts. 2(1)(b) & 7.)  Operators of establishments where animals or germinal products are kept, those engaged in carrying out collecting operations independently from an establishment, and transporters must be registered in the database. (Art. 5(1).) Before commencing their activities, registered operators must guarantee the accuracy of the information provided to the BDN database and communicate any changes and the cessation of registered activities. They must also comply with other obligations established by the current legislation to guarantee the proper custody and welfare of animals, including their transfer from transit establishments. (Art. 5(5).)

L.D. No. 134 sets forth time limitations for the provision of notice to the authorities concerning the theft, loss, or discovery of registered animals. (Art. 9(6).) Animals imported into Italy or destined for another EU country must have certificates of identification allowing for their traceability. (Art. 10(1) & (3).)

The competent authorities must swiftly block the movement or transfer of animals whose identification and registration are not fully maintained by operators in accordance with L.D. No. 134. (Art. 15(3).)

Owners or operators of pet animals must also provide identification of the animal for the purpose of registering them in the respective BDN section. (Art. 16(1).)

Finally, L.D. No. 134 includes administrative fines of 750 euros to 7,500 euros (about US$749 to $7,492) for carrying out animal collection operations, keeping animals, or transporting animals without the required identification in the BDN or while the registration has been suspended or revoked. (Art. 17(1).)

Wild and Exotic Animals, Training of Operators, and Illegal Trade in Protected Species

Legislative Decree No. 135 prohibits the importation, possession, trade, and breeding of live wild and exotic animals that have been removed from their natural environment, as well as of their derivative hybrids. (L.D. No. 135, art. 3(1).) Several exclusions apply, including zoological parks and species expressly excluded by specific legislation. (Art. 2(a).) Also prohibited is the possession of species that are dangerous for human health, public safety, or biodiversity, including hybrids of wild or domestic species. (Art. 4(1).) Exempted from these prohibitions are animals used in activities of reintroduction or restocking as authorized according to current legislation (art. 4(3)), which includes the possession, marketing, and importation of wild and exotic animals authorized by the minister of health to be kept as pets (art. 5(1)).

Keepers of animals, including hybrids, belonging to exotic wild species are authorized to keep them until the end of the animals’ natural life if they are kept in conditions that guarantee their well-being and appropriate measures are adopted to ensure the impossibility of their reproduction and escape. (Art. 6(1).)

Holders of commercial stocks of wild and exotic animals that are not included in a decree to be issued by the Ministry of Health and are purchased or acquired for any reason in accordance with current legislation by the date of entry into force of L.D. No. 135 are authorized to hold and market them within 12 months. (Art. 7(1).)

Another Ministry of Health decree to be issued within 180 days of L.D. 135’s entry into force is to determine the structural and biosafety requirements of establishments that keep animals. (Art. 8(1).) Operators, owners, or holders of animals covered by the new legislation are to receive training according to an operating manual to be issued by the authorities. (Art. 9(1).) The competent authorities are to carry out surveillance and control activities over covered animals to determine the presence of diseases, zoonoses, and zoonotic agents. (Art. 10(1).)

Regarding distance-selling to the public of animals or female puppies, sellers must comply with identification requirements and obtain the pertinent veterinary medical certificates certifying the sanitary conditions of the animals. (Art. 11(1).)

Authorities must create reception centers for the custody of animals that are subject to criminal or administrative seizure procedures, including centers for dangerous animals and sea turtle recovery centers. (Art. 13(1).)

Prevention and Control of Animal Diseases

Legislative Decree No. 136 provides that the Ministry of Health is the central veterinary authority responsible for coordinating official controls related to animal health and animal welfare in accordance with EU legislation. (L.D. No. 136, art. 3(1)(a).)

Other authorities include the Centro nazionale di lotta ed emergenza contro le malattie (National Center for Animal Disease Control and Emergencies) and a national veterinary network made up of the heads of the regional veterinary services and autonomous provinces and coordinated by the national Head of Veterinary Services. (Arts. 4(1) & 5(1).)

Operators must notify local veterinary authorities immediately upon suspecting the presence of one of categorized diseases or emerging diseases. (Art. 6(1)(a).) The Health Ministry must notify the EU Commission and member states about such diseases. (Art. 7(1).)

The legislation also creates official national animal health and welfare laboratories (art. 9(1)) and provides that the Ministry of Health is to establish disease eradication and surveillance programs at the national level (art. 13(1)).

Additionally, L.D. No. 136 creates the Veterinary Information System (“”) under the Ministry of Health to guarantee the flow of information on animal health matters to the EU and international animal surveillance organizations. (Art. 14(1).)

Under certain requirements, the Ministry of Health may request the European Commission for the recognition of disease-free status for one or more listed diseases, for one or more of the relevant animal species, for the whole of its territory, or for one or more areas. (Art. 16(1).) The European Commission adopts implementing acts to recognize the disease-free status. (EU Regulation 2016/429, art. 37, para. 4.)

Finally, L.D. No. 136 sets forth penalties for failing to implement disease control measures (L.D. No. 136, art. 23) and for violations of requirements for the movement within the EU of terrestrial animals (art. 24), wild land animals (art. 25), germinal products (art. 26), products of animal origin (art. 27), or aquatic animals (art. 28). Penalties also apply for infringements in the production, processing, and distribution within the EU of products of animal origin obtained from aquatic animals, other than live aquatic animals (art. 29), and for the entry into the EU of certain goods other than animals, germinal products, and products of animal origin from third countries and territories (art. 30).

Dante Figueroa, Law Library of Congress
December 23, 2022

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