Taipei, April 3 (CNA) Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (COA) has established a pet management division, which will be responsible for the regulation of the pet industry, as well as pet ownership and welfare, the COA announced on Sunday.
At a press conference in Taipei, COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) noted that around 2.5 million dogs and cats are currently kept as pets in Taiwan, while the yearly output value of the domestic pet industry had grown to over NT$500 million (US$17.42 million).
"At the current 10 percent annual growth rate, that means there could be 12 million pet dogs and cats in the country by 2040," Chen said, adding that pets deserve welfare protection "just as people do."
In a press release, the COA said the new section was being set up ahead of planned amendments to the Animal Protection Act, which will strengthen government oversight of the pet industry and try to guarantee the welfare of animals being kept as pets.
It will also be responsible for drafting a "white list" of animal species and breeds that can be kept as pets, based on the standards of animal welfare, human and animal safety, and the risk of the pets becoming invasive species, the COA said.
The section will initially have six employees at COA headquarters and around 100 staffers working in local government offices, with an annual budget of NT$150 million, according to the COA.
Speaking at the event, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the planned legal amendments would focus on "traceability," by mandating that pets be registered at birth and each time they change owners throughout their lives.
The establishment of the section follows criticism from animal protection groups -- especially those dealing with Taiwan's abandoned pet and stray animal problems -- that the COA was not doing enough to crack down on irresponsible pet owners and breeders.
Last month, Chen said the new section would initially focus on dogs and cats, but would expand in the future to include other pet types, such as birds and reptiles.