Owners of dogs and cats will be able to take their pets to the UK more easily and at less expense when new rules are introduced on January 1, 2012.
In a bid to harmonise pet movement rules with the rest of the European Union, from January 1, 2012 the UK will update its Pet Travel Scheme to reflect the most recent science.
The changes in the rules will not, according to the British Embassy, affect the high level of protection against animal diseases in the UK, it will however save pet owners around €7 million in fees.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Lisbon said: “Forcing pets to spend six months in quarantine, a practice dating from the 1800s, is no longer necessary because of the vastly improved rabies vaccines and treatments.”
All pets will still need to be vaccinated against rabies but pets travelling from the EU to the UK will no longer require blood tests and will only have to wait 21 days before they are able to travel.
According to the British Embassy, the risk of rabies coming to the UK remains extremely low.
“It is estimated that the new rules will mean that 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,” said the Embassy spokesman.
UK 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. What is needed is a simpler, evidence based system for protecting the UK from rabies which recognises the actual risk to pets and 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.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “The UK will continue to protect the public against the risk of serious exotic tapeworm infections and is pressing to retain tapeworm controls for pets entering the UK. The government 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.”
She added: “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.”
For further information on what pet owners and vets need to do before bringing a pet to the UK, please visit www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel or call the UK helpline on +44 870 241 1710.