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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 14:48 GMT
Pet 'passports' brought forward

Animals are currently held in quarantine for six months

A pilot 'pet passport' scheme to allow some cat and dog owners to bring their animals into the UK from abroad without quarantine will be launched sooner than expected.

The government's Pet Travel Scheme (Pets) was due to start in April 2000, but has now been brought forward to 28 February, to cater for pet-owners travelling over the Easter holidays.

If the pilot is successful, a permanentl scheme will replace the existing six-month quarantine system for pets arriving in the UK from Western Europe in APril 2001.

UK Quarantine: a history
Introduced in 1901 following a rabies outbreak which killed 173 people.
Since 1973 only one animal in quarantine has been found to have rabies
No one has died from rabies contracted in Britain since 1903
The RSPCA says more than 1,200 animals have died in UK quarantine kennels in the last 10 years.
Animals arriving from other parts of the world will still have to be kept in isolation.

However, owners of guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the deaf will also be able to bring their animals in from New Zealand and Australia.

Under the pilot, animals which have been vaccinated against rabies will be fitted with an identifying microchip under their skin, and will be allowed to travel freely with their owners.

The revised timetable for the scheme is due to be announced by junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman on Wednesday.

The scheme has been introduced after pressure from pet-owners and animal welfare groups, who argued that the present quarantine system had caused suffering to animals with almost no cases of rabies being found.

Lady Fretwell, chairwoman of the Passports for Pets group, said she was "delighted" by the latest move.

She said: "We have thousands of members, including deaf and blind people and members of the armed forces, who have suffered a great deal of unhappiness over the years because of this old-fashioned voodoo over rabies and quarantine.

"It is a disgrace that guide dogs and working dogs have been barred from travelling with their owners.

"We are now hopeful that the full scheme will be brought forward."

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See also:
03 Aug 99 |  UK Politics
Pets' passport to freedom
20 May 99 |  UK Politics
Pets win passports

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