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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK

UK Politics

Pets win passports

Microchips will verify pets are rabies-free

The first step towards ending quarantine for pets brought to the United Kingdom will start within a year, the House of Commons has heard.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told MPs pet passport pilot schemes would start in the next 12 months.

These would "initially be open to a range of carriers and targeted at pet owners likely to come to or return to the UK for a longer period of time than a conventional summer holiday", Mr Brown said.

"I am also minded to include guide dogs for the blind and for the deaf in the pilot scheme."

[ image: Nick Brown: Hopes to include guide dogs in trial schemes]
Nick Brown: Hopes to include guide dogs in trial schemes
The current quarantine rules have existed for more than 100 years. They are to be replaced with a system of certifying pets using vaccinations and microchips.

Animals arriving from certified rabies-free nations will not be forced to spend any time in quarantine.

Mr Brown offered no time scale for moving from pilot projects to full-scale implementation of pet passports, but promised it would occur quickly.

Animals coming into Britain are presently required to spend six months in quarantine.

The agriculture minister said he hoped to have another announcement to make to Parliament on the position of the United States and Canada within weeks.

He said he had met transport operators who were "favourable" and "enthusiastic" about the changes

He added: "Transport operators are rising to the challenge and can see the potential of this."

Ferry companies, train operators and airlines would be asked to carry out pre-entry checks on pets but would not be compelled to carry animals under the new system.

The obligation would fall on owners to obtain a vet's certificate proving that the animal had received anti-rabies jabs and had been treated to remove parasites.

A microchip would be embedded in the animal with a number to match the certificate to verify this.

There would be random spot checks on animals after they arrive in the UK.

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