The data of dog and cat owners will be made available to the emergency services in regions that were heavily affected by the floods of last week, to help rescuers reunite animals that got lost in the severe weather with their owners.
Via the online DogID and CatID database systems, rescuers who find a lost pet are able to retrieve information about the owners and return the animals to their homes, provided they have been microchipped.
Since 1 May this year, this data became anonymised as a result of the European GDPR regulations, however, upon the request of Flemish Minister of Animal Welfare Ben Weyts, the company in charge of the Dog- and CatID platforms, Zetes, has opened up the contact details for three weeks.
During and immediately after the flooding, which swept across many parts of Belgium, but was particularly damaging in Wallonia and Limburg, rescue workers found numerous lost pets who often were dragged away by the force of the floods.
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People who still had their pets were often forced to leave them in a shelter as the temporary accommodations could not take in the animals.
The organisation for the protection of animals (Société pour la Protection des Animaux) in Verviers, one of the most heavily affected municipalities, told Het Nieuwsblad on Monday that around 50 animals, including mostly cats and dogs, but also chickens and a tortoise, have been taken in.
"Often these pets are the only companions of elderly people. These animals give them comfort on difficult days. Like now. But just now it's like they have to get a divorce," manager Maxime Verbruggen said.
Several other shelters actively went out to rescue the animals by roaming the streets in badly affected areas together with the fire brigades.
Meanwhile, one vet for Animal Sans Logies in Plainevaux, Louis Marcotty, said that around 30 dogs have been brought in by owners, mostly to avoid them experiencing the trauma of the flooding.
As part of the help that is being offered by people across Belgium since the floods, many people have also said they will provide a temporary home for the pets of people whose houses were destroyed or damaged by the severe weather.
Animal rights organisation WWF has put up advice on its website for what to do if an animal, both wild or a pet, is found in a region that was affected by the floods.