Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Quarantine laws face overhaul
The government hopes to lessen the burden on pet owners
The government has announced a three-month consultation for proposed radical changes to "outdated" quarantine laws.
The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, says they would be "the most radical changes to the nation's quarantine laws for almost a century".
Mr Brown said the incidence of rabies in household pets from Western Europe was "virtually non-existent".
Cats and dogs from Europe and rabies-free islands like Australia would be fitted with microchips under the skin.
Owners would have to show that vets had checked the animals the day before they returned, that they were vaccinated against rabies and had been deloused.
The report says up to three years should be allowed before the system is introduced.
It is widely accepted that the compulsory six-month quarantine period for all pets coming from overseas is outdated and cruel both to the animals and to their owners.
Charlotte Morrisset from the RSPCA said: "It is essential to keep the UK rabies free but science now shows that we can have a system - based on blood tests, a vaccination and a microchip - which does really give us those guarantees.
The new system is also expected to be cheaper - cutting costs from £1,500 to keep one dog in solitary confinement to around £150 for the first import, plus £30 annually for rabies vaccinations and £30 for each subsequent import.