New rules mean it will be easier and cheaper to travel abroad with pets
It will become cheaper and easier to travel abroad with pets when new rules are introduced at the start of next year.
The UK will harmonise its pet movement rules with the rest of the European Union from 1 January 2012, bringing the UK’s Pet Travel Scheme into line with the most recent science. The UK will maintain its high level of protection against animal diseases after the changes, which have the potential to save pet owners around £7 million in fees.
Forcing pets to spend six months in quarantine, a practice dating from the 1800s, is no longer necessary because of vastly improved rabies vaccines and treatments.
All pets will still need to be vaccinated against rabies. Pets from the EU and listed non-EU countries such as the USA and Australia will no longer need a blood test and will only have to wait 21 days before they travel. Pets from unlisted non-EU countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa will be able to enter the UK if they meet certain strict criteria to ensure they are protected against rabies, including a blood test and a three-month wait before they enter the UK.
The changes will ensure the risk of rabies coming to the UK remains extremely low. It’s estimated that the new rules mean there would be one case of rabies in a pet in the UK once every 211 years, with the possibility of a person dying from rabies obtained from a pet once in every 21,000 years.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“The UK’s quarantine system was designed to combat the threat of rabies in the 19th century and has now been left far behind by scientific advances. It’s time we changed these outdated rules which have caused hardship to generations of pets and pet owners, and those who rely on assistance dogs, with too many animals cooped up unnecessarily.
“What is needed is a simpler, evidence-based system for protecting the UK from rabies which recognises the actual risk to pets and pet owners. The EU’s pet movement scheme has been working very well for nearly a decade, and it makes sense for us to have similar rules. It means the UK will remain protected from rabies and other exotic diseases while making it easier and cheaper for people to take their pets abroad.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:
“Rabies is a very serious human disease and the rabies-free status of the UK must be protected. The pet travel scheme provides important protection of public health by ensuring that pets entering the UK are free of rabies and other infections.
“Scientific evidence shows that there is a robust alternative to quarantine in preventing rabies incursion from those countries where there is a high incidence of rabies and good reason for changing our very precautionary rules. The EU pet travel rules have been successful in preventing any cases of rabies occurring in legally moved pets since the scheme started, so harmonising the UK’s rules with those of the EU will make it easier for those who wish to travel with their pets.
“It is important to continue to protect the public against the risk of serious exotic tapeworm infections and the government is pressing to retain our tapeworm controls for pets entering the UK. The wider public health risks from exotic tick-borne infections and the need for tick controls for pets entering the UK will be kept under review.”
The UK has been discussing with the European Commission the most appropriate form of tapeworm controls for dogs, to ensure the UK continues to be protected from Echinococcus multilocularis. The Commission has recently indicated that its proposals, expected shortly, would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls, with a requirement that animals be treated between one and five days before returning to the UK.
Tick treatment for pet animals returning to the UK will no longer be required. All pet owners travelling abroad with their animals should discuss with their vets the use of treatments, including those designed to control ticks as part of good animal health practice.
The UK, along with Ireland, Sweden and Malta, has an exemption from the standard EU pet travel rules. They are all harmonising their entry rules with the rest of the EU at the same time as the UK.