In December I wrote about the threat to our bio-security because of the lack of border controls as a result of the delegation of enforcing the rules on the importation of pets to the ferry operators and airlines, since the new regulations on pet passports were introduced in January 2012.  The relaxation of these rules to come into line with EU legislation has, in my opinion, greatly increased the potential for rabies and other diseases to be introduced into the UK.  In my correspondence with my local MP and the office of Mr David Heath at DEFRA, this concern has been responded to with details about the legislation and how it is a criminal offence for anyone who does not comply with EU entry requirements when bringing pets into the UK.  Is it being enforced? Has anyone been prosecuted? Do they know how many pets are being imported illegally?

It was also stated that there has been a dramatic reduction in the incidence of rabies across the EU over the last decade or so and that there were around 500 rabies cases in pets and wildlife across the EU in 2011, compared with 5,000 in 2001 and around 13,000 in 1991 – so that’s alright then?  We had the first case of rabies in Spain for over 30 years in June 2013, when a dog entered Spain from Morocco and the paperwork was not checked properly.

The following is an extract from a letter written by a vet which appeared in the January edition of “Your Dog” magazine which is a popular publication with dog owners.

“A recent rabies outbreak in The Netherlands has set alarm bells ringing.  The two affected pups had been imported into the Netherlands from Bulgaria following rabies vaccination. One showed signs of fever and paralysis, and was diagnosed with rabies after euthanasia; the other had diarrhoea- a common problem in pups, especially after re-homing-and might not have been identified as a rabies case had he not been traced as a littermate of the first pup.

This is a very frightening development, and too close for comfort in my opinion.  It should force those in charge to reconsider whether the UK’s Pet Travel Scheme legislation is rigorous enough.  The scheme offers flexibility to owners who wish to travel with their pets, and to breeders wishing to enhance bloodlines using stock from abroad. But, I don’t believe it should be used commercially to allow the importation of young pups, for whom transport and mixing is a serious welfare issue. Any concerns regarding pups’ legality and welfare should be addressed to the local Environmental Health Office and to Trading Standards.  Where welfare is the main concern, the RSPCA and police should also be involved.”

I know from contacts in dog rescue that they are very aware of the alarming increase in the illegal importation of puppies from Eastern Europe, the lack of resources to check and investigate any cases, and believe that it is only a matter of time before we see our first rabies case in the UK for nearly 100 years.  It will only take one sick pup to be illegally imported into the UK and sold and infect other pups or wildlife – why take the risk?

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