As you may be aware, the United Kingdom is introducing relaxed legislation which will make it easier for owners to bring in cats and dogs from listed or low risk jurisdictions — European countries in particular.
According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), “rabies quarantine in the UK is for cats, dogs and other rabies susceptible animals that do not qualify for entry into the UK under the current Pet Travel Scheme”.
They are required to spend six months in quarantine.
But from January 1 these conditions change as the UK brings its rules into line with the rest of the European Union (EU).
From 2012, dogs, cats and ferrets entering the UK must be:
- Microchipped (a tattoo may be accepted from some countries);
- Vaccinated against rabies;
- Have waited 21 days after vaccination before entering the UK;
- Have a European Pet Passport.
Also from January 1, pets imported from unlisted countries will be allowed to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they meet the following EU entry requirements. They must be:
- Identified by a microchip;
- Be vaccinated against rabies;
- Have a blood sample taken by an authorized veterinarian at least 30 days after vaccination and three months before travelling to an EU country;
- Have a blood test result from an EU-approved laboratory, showing that the rabies antibody titre was equal to or more than .05 IU/mL;
- Be accompanied by a certificate issued by an official veterinarian, certifying compliance with the above requirements.
Only one person has contracted classical rabies inside the UK in more than 100 years (in 1902).
There have been 24 confirmed cases since 1946 — four of those since 2000. In every case, the victim contracted rabies overseas.
The disease is still most prevalent in the developing world, where an estimated 55,000 people contract classical rabies every year.
In May 2011 the UK Health Protection Agency declared that the majority of east European countries and Balkan States fell into the category of High Risk for rabies.
Infections usually result from bites from rabid dogs and bats, although foxes and other animals can also carry the disease.
Because of its previously stringent animal importation laws, Britain has traditionally been the place of choice from which islanders have imported animals (especially puppies), from as little as 10 weeks old.
Our local authorities require that the animal must have undergone a series of rabies inoculations — resulting in puppies being at least 10 months old before they can be brought into Bermuda.
Island authorities are now reviewing the changes in Britain and are reevaluating our position.
Should we tighten our animal importation policies in light of what is happening across the pond?
Will it still be safe to import puppies from Britain after January 1?
Is Britain relaxing its animal importation laws to the point where they can easily be overcome in an attempt to placate European partners?
Only time will tell, but the evidence suggests the contrary.
DEFRA supports the changes in Britain, and I quote from their website (www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife): “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 harmonize 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.”
It continues: “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.
“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.”
Dr Harvey Locke, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “It is vital that any controls on animal movements are proportionate to the risk.”
Congratulations to all the winners of the recent SPCA raffle, whose names and winning ticket numbers are listed at www.spca.bm. Are you a winner? Today (Wednesday 30th November) is your last day to claim your prize — present your ticket at the SPCA Shelter by 4pm.