An abuse by Eastern European Countries within the European Union of the Pet Travel Scheme has resulted in an increased risk of the importation of rabies into the UK.
The UK is considered rabies free. It has been since 1902! There have been some outbreaks since then but in general the people and vets of the United Kingdom didn’t give a thought to rabies until now, that is, since the law makers of the European Union obliged Britain to slacken-off the quarantine laws regarding the importation of animals into the UK.
A recent change in the law in January 2013, instigated by the European Union (EU) Commission, that is designed to make it easier for cat and dog owners to travel with their companion animals within Europe means that animals can enter the country at a younger age1.
The net result of these changes to a time served and effective protection for animals in the UK is that a trade in young, commercially attractive, puppies and kittens has developed which is an abuse of the current Pet Travel Scheme. The Pet Travel Scheme is the system that allows dogs, cats and ferrets to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they meet certain rules.
The age of the animal is important because previously a minimum of 9 months of age was the criteria under the Pet Travel Scheme. Being allowed to import younger animals encourages trade, which is not the purpose of the Pet Travel Scheme.
In this instance, the abuse comes from Bulgaria. Bulgaria was accepted into the EU on 1 January 2007. There are people who say that Bulgaria should not be in the European because they are not ready.
Four-month-old Eastern European puppies were imported for trade to a Northern European country. Two case of rabid puppies have been reported in the Netherlands. The puppies were imported on October 5th 2013. People were put at severe risk. Fake rabies vaccination documents appear to have been used. The puppies have been euthanised. The people are being observed.
This is a wake up call for British people. We don’t want a relaxation of our quarantine laws and of the Pet Travel Scheme if they result in abuse by criminals that goes undetected. The consequences are dire. Rabies is a frightening disease that is almost invariably fatal to animal and person. As we know, it is a zoonotic disease – transferable between species.
The president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Robin Hargreaves, has asked the government to review the rules governing the importation of pets:
“This is deeply worrying news and must be a wake up call..”
The BVA raised concerns about the importation of puppies and kittens for sale last year. It appears that nothing effective happened.
- Times Newspaper Oct 23rd 2013 – check with DEFRA please because journalists can get things wrong!
- Link to photographer’s Flickr profile.