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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Owners complained of too much red tape"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 February, 2000, 10:16 GMT
Frodo bags first pet passport
Frodo Baggins with owner Helen de Borchgrave
Frodo Baggins with delighted owner Helen de Borchgrave
For the first time in more than 100 years, cats and dogs are allowed into the UK without having to go into quarantine for six months.

A new pets passport scheme took effect on Monday, sweeping away Britain's traditional safeguards against rabies.

Pets coming from 22 countries in western Europe will now be able to skip quarantine if their owners show certain documents proving the animal has been vaccinated against rabies and has microchip identificaton.

quarantine
Most pets have to stop in quarantine
Until now, any animal being brought into the country had to spend six months in quarantine to ensure it had not picked up the killer disease.

The first pets to qualify for a pet passport arrived at the port of Dover at about 0100 GMT.

The pilot scheme applies only to cats and dogs. Other pets will still face six months in kennels.

The pets will have to:

  • Be implanted with a microchip to give each of them a unique identity number

  • Be vaccinated against rabies

  • Have a blood test a month later to ensure the vaccine is effective

  • Have a second blood test six months later before they can come back to the UK

  • The day before arriving back in port, they must be treated for tapeworm and ticks by a registered vet.

    The first animal allowed in under the system was Frodo Baggins, a five-year-old pug dog, who came with his owner, Helen de Borchgrave, of London.

    She said the new scheme would allow her to avoid the heartbreak of leaving her dog behind when she travels for work.

  • The Pet Travel Scheme
    The pilot scheme runs for 12 months
    It resulted from a long campaign for an alternative to quarantine
    There are now fewer than 10 cases of human rabies in Europe a year
    There has been one rabies case in Britain in 25 years - a Sussex woman bitten by a bat
    Doctors say dog-bite victims should have free rabies jabs
    She spends four or five months a year in Europe for her work as an oil painting and fine art restorer, and as an art lecturer.

    She said: "He has never been able to travel with me before, as I think quarantine is cruel. Rather than lose him for six months I have left him behind in the past.

    "I have wanted passports to be brought in for a long time. Pet owners have been waiting for them, as there is a definite bonding between dogs and their owners.

    "The scheme is wonderful for all those families who will be able to take their dogs on holiday with them, as leaving them is like leaving part of the family behind."

    Dover
    The port of Dover will welcome pets with passports
    She spent 200 on the microchip, documents, vaccination and blood tests.

    Eurotunnel and ferry operators at Dover and Portsmouth are helping run the pilot scheme, but Eurostar services are not involved.

    At immigration controls, the pet owner is handed a scanner to pass over the animal's chip, to avoid officials being bitten.

    The scanner reads an identification number on the chip, which is then checked against records.

    The programme is likely to be extended to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in 2001.

    But some fear the new pet passports could cause delays, for example if the microchip cannot be found.

    Pets who fail the checks will have to enter quarantine if they want to continue their journey, or stay in France.

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