Kitten and Puppy Exports from Bulgaria are a UK Rabies Risk

Cat at airport. Pet Travel Scheme. Rabies

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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.


  1. Times Newspaper Oct 23rd 2013 – check with DEFRA please because journalists can get things wrong!
  2. Link to photographer’s Flickr profile.

14 thoughts on “Kitten and Puppy Exports from Bulgaria are a UK Rabies Risk”

  1. The case of the “imported puppies for trade” was actually very wrongly presented. The pups were sent to The Netherlands as rescued animals and were adopted. They were not sold. A second test was carried on the samples from the already murdered pups which proved it was not the case of Rabies and the vet there was simply incompetent and did not run the tests properly. Dates in the official report were also incorrect. No people were put at risk at any time. The Dutch Agency apologised to the Bulgarian Athorities in a very brief letter, which did not really show any true remorse for murdering two little creatures in search for a better life. Too sad people fall for such kind of propaganda.

      • Here is a link to the final conclusions of The World Organisation for Animal Health, published by BSAVA. Please, let me know if you can open the link and if not, I can copy/paste the text. I know of the case as the pups originated from a town where I used to live and know the situation very well. Been in talks with the local vets and the Food and Safety Agency (in Bulgaria). Many facts in this case were misrepresented by the Dutch, which left bitter taste and justice for th unnecessary murder of the two pups was never served.

  2. There was one human, a girl, known to have survived rabies. Her recovery was long and difficult and I don’t know that it can be said she made a full recovery. She lived. She got it from a rabid bat. She should have died, but somehow she managed to survive. I know she was from the US, but I can’t remember what state.

    Why would a country not take every possible precaution against such a horrible disease that in all of recorded human history we have one known case where somebody survived? Even the scariest diseases you can think of like TB don’t have such a bad track record for causing fatalities. Preventing animals potentially infected with rabies from coming into a country where rabies has been wiped out pretty much guarantees prevention of rabies. I can’t see any plus side to relaxing restrictions that could prevent rabies.

    • I just had to look it up and sure enough, the girl who survived rabies was from Wisconsin. She was taken to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and it was there where a doctor figured out a way to save her life by putting her into a deep coma for several days until her immune system could build up antibodies and fight the virus. His treatment is called The Milwaukee Protocol. It worked, but she came out of that coma like a baby having to relearn everything. As the doctor put it, the rabies virus “unwired” her brain. She is the only person to have survived without receiving a vaccine. If you get the vaccine soon enough you have a fighting chance, but she didn’t even think about the bat bite until she started having symptoms and even then she didn’t immediately connect her flu like symptoms to the bat bite. Rabies is the only vaccine Monty still gets, partly because by law he has to have it, but also because it’s just too great a risk not to have it for a cat who goes outside.

      • Such an amazing survival, Ruth.
        Why any country would take the risk of having rabies enter is beyond me.
        I hate that I have to be vaccinated because I work with ferals.
        You would think that scientists would have figured out a way to eradicate it by now.

        • I researched further and it turns out three other people have now been saved from rabies through the Milwaukee protocol. One of them was a little girl scratched by a feral cat. I think we have to be honest that feral cats can and do carry rabies. Bats are probably one of the biggest carriers, but cats can and do carry the disease. We have to think about that as we try to deal with ferals in humane ways. A little girl got rabies by being scratched by a feral cat on the playground at her school. Were it not for a brilliant doctor in Milwaukee that little girl would be dead now. Not might be dead– 100% certain would be dead. Because of a cat. Any TNR efforts must include not only spay/neuter but rabies vaccinations as well.

          • All true, Ruth. Rabies vaccines are a requirement for TNR.
            Here, almost all of our rabies alerts are for raccoons. We are overrun with the critters.

            • Ruth, the scientists haven’t figured it out because once a disease acquires wild csrriers, it can become basically uneradicatable. To eliminate rabies in the US would mean removing all raccoon, foxes, bats (good luck!) etc.

    • I agree that we should maintain the highest standards when dealing with such a monstrous disease. The EU is unpopular in the UK. They have messed around with out laws.

  3. I don’t understand why the Uk is implementing those imbecilic EU rules and regulations which penetrate every nook and cranny of everybody’s life and cause immmense difficulties.. The UK never signed up for the EU. They sighed up as members of the EEC which is a free trade bloc pure and simple, by drift and cowardliness their politicians allowed the EU neo-Marxist morons to take over the driver’s seat. Amother dirty trick of the EU is to declare the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus a third country in regard to EU importation regulations, whereas the illegal Greek Republic of Cyprus is free to move animals to and fro without any stringent rules. The whole of Cyprus has been free free of rabies for many years but Turkish Cyprus is treated like a rabies danger whereas Bulgaria, where rabies is present, is free to export rabid animals to all of the EU.
    The big problem with Greek S Cyprus is that there is No quarantine and recent massive influxes of Russians, Bulgarians, Chinese, some with animals are not required to undergo quarantine. Home quarantine is required but that is ineffective to control or detect rabies. Government controlled quarantine is obligatory Turkish Cyprus.
    Nobody needs the EU and it’s insane governance. The sooner the neo-Marxist bloc of the EU breaks up the sooner democracy and sanity will return to Europe. They have economically ruined several member states and having failed to ruin the UK economy are now working hard in other areas. .


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