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Mad dogs and Englishmen: Brits question pet quarantine

October 18, 1996
Web posted at:11:45 p.m.(0345GMT)

From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie

LONDON (CNN) -- Britain may be a nation of dog lovers, but it has a tradition of treating animals entering the country very rudely.

Immigrant animals automatically face six months behind bars in Britain, quarantined in special kennels to ensure they do not have rabies.

Critics say the procedure is antiquated, expensive and unnecessary.


"The quarantine system that now pertains, though it has served a very useful purpose for a large number of years, is no longer appropriate," said Lord Ernst Soulsby of Vets in Support of Change.

"Almost every other country in the world that is free of rabies, such as Australia and New Zealand, do allow dogs in, appropriately vaccinated (and) appropriately identified."


Passports for Pets is veteran traveler Lady Mary Fretwell's answer to British quarantine. She wants to allow the owners of vaccinated animals to certify their pets' good health with traditional paper passports and microchips implanted in the pet's neck.

"What's the point of subjecting these animals -- 10,000 a year -- into these sort of conditions when a blood test, vaccine and positive identification would reassure everybody?" Fretwell said.

Others say the risk is still too great. "The reliability of pet passports and the vaccinations, while high, is not high enough, and it doesn't offer the certainty of the present system," said British Parliament member David Shaw.

Law is working

Britain's rabies law was introduced in 1901. Some say it may be brutal, but it works: the nation has been rabies-free for more than 25 years.

"Quarantine has been very effective, and therefore we will not change unless we can ensure that the new regulations are equally effective," said Tony Stevens of the British Veterinary Association.

It is not just the mandatory quarantine under scrutiny, but the way it is carried out. Critics say the $3,000 to $5,000 owners must pay to kennel animals is too steep.


"The consumer who is paying a lot of money has no rights on this," said Fretwell. "They have no rights to bring in their individual vet; they have to use the quarantine kennel's vet."

Some say a pet passport system would cost the government too much -- more veterinary customs staff, more equipment -- to handle more animals moving in and out of the country.

But then it could cut down on pet smuggling, which ultimately could prove a greater health threat to the country.


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