International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

The End of Britain's Strict Quarantine Laws

Chris Parker, Treasurer
Circle of Guide Dog Owners

On 22 December 1999, it was announced that Britain's strict quarantine laws will end on 28 February 2000. This means that dogs and cats traveling with their owners from most European countries (see list attached) will be able to enter the UK without having to spend six months in quarantine. Before the start of the full travel scheme, which will be known as the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), in 2001, there will be a pilot scheme, which will run from 28 February for about 12 months. This pilot will only cover the sea ports of Portsmouth and Dover, the latter also being the terminus for the Shuttle train service, and Heathrow Airport. Only one or two ferry companies are taking part in the pilot, and the only airline which I know is participating is British Airways, although there may be a few others. The Shuttle (the vehicle carrying train service) is also taking part, but not Eurostar (the foot passenger carrying train service). Carriers were invited to apply to participate in the pilot, as they will be responsible for carrying out the checks on animals coming to the UK, and they had to satisfy the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (known as MAFF) that they had trained their staff to carry out the checks properly. I am not sure what will happen following the pilot (ie whether it will just expand into the full PETS scheme or whether there will be a period for evaluation of the pilot), but the full scheme is expected to be in place by April 2001.

In order to qualify for exemption from quarantine, a dog or cat must be microchipped with an ISO Standard microchip and vaccinated against rabies with an approved inactivated adjuvanated vaccine. At least 30 days after the vaccination, the animal must have a blood sample taken, which must be sent to a laboratory approved by MAFF to carry out a blood test to show a required antibody titre has been achieved in the animal. If this antibody titre is not achieved with the first vaccination, another will have to be administered and another blood sample taken and tested. Once a successful blood test has been achieved, the owner will, some time before traveling, be given a certificate (or "passport") for their pet, containing the microchip number and the vaccination and blood test details, signed by a qualified veterinary surgeon. This passport will last for the duration of the vaccination. Within six months of a successful blood test, during which time the animal should not be taken to a country whose animals do not qualify for exemption from quarantine under the PETS scheme, the animal will be able to enter the UK. Provided the vaccination boosters are kept up to date, only one successful blood test will be required. Following the initial six months' wait, an animal with up-to-date boosters will be able to enter the UK without going into quarantine at any time during the life of its current passport. Prior to the start of the pilot, UK animals have a concession. Provided a successful blood test has been achieved on or after 27 May 1999 and before the start of the pilot, they will not have to wait six months following the blood test before returning to the UK.


Before entering the UK, an animal will need another certificate. Not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours prior to entry, it will have to be treated for the fox tapeworm (Echinococus multilocularis) and certain ticks to prevent a potential risk of serious zoonotic disease coming into the UK.

This will have to be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon in the source country. This cannot be carried out on UK animals by a British vet prior to the animal leaving the UK, as the treatment is only effective for a limited period and we do not have these parasites and ticks in Britain. Following the treatment, the vet will sign another certificate. The window for administering the above treatment is controversial in Brtiain, as it is felt that it will be difficult for Britons to find a vet in the time allowed. However, it is a Department of Health ruling, which they say cannot be changed for the pilot. It will prevent Britons from taking their pets abroad on day trips, whereas Europeans will not be prevented by this ruling from visiting the UK on a day trip. It will also prevent British guide dog owners from traveling to Europe with their dogs for one-day business conferences. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is hoping to run a campaign to get a concession for GDOs.

Both the rabies vaccination certificate and the tick and parasite certificate will be checked, either before the dog or cat boards the ferry or train, or probably, in the case of airlines, on arrival in the UK, before the animal goes through Customs. The animal's microchip will also be checked and the number will have to tie up with that printed on the rabies vaccination certificate. If the microchip cannot be read or the documentation is not in order, the animal will either be taken into quarantine or returned to the country from which it has come or is intending to come.


British Airways are stating at the moment that all animals traveling under the Pet Travel Scheme pilot will have to travel in the hold, even assistance dogs. Animals will have to be taken to the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. They say that at present, they do not have the staff to assist blind people in getting to the Animal Reception Centre, which means guide dogs can't travel in the cabin. This may change either prior to the start of the pilot or during it, and I shall do everything possible to ensure that it does. I shall also contact other airlines to ascertain whether they are taking part in the pilot and if they are prepared to carry assistance dogs in the cabin.


For UK residents, the cost of microchipping, rabies vaccination and blood testing is likely to be in the region of 200. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association's Quarantine Advisory Panel, of which I am a member, recommended to the GDBA General Council that the Association pay for this treatment for all dogs being taken abroad. Council decided to pay for it for all dogs taking part in the pilot and to review the situation following that. Guide dog owners will need to tell their local Client Service Centre if they intend to take part in the pilot, or even if they intend to travel abroad for the full scheme, giving the centre details of the microchip number, vaccination date and date of successful blood test. Their third party insurance for the dog, paid for by the Association, will cover the dog whilst abroad. Should the dog require any veterinary treatment, other than the tick and tapeworm treatment, whilst abroad, GDBA will reimburse the owner when they return, on production of receipts. It is advisable that they take their dog's health book with them. Advice sheets are available from their Client Service Centre.

THE USA & CANADA - Don't Give Up Hope!

A risk assessment has been carried out by a former member of the Advisory Group on Quarantine on the risk of importing rabies into Britain if animals from the USA and Canada were allowed in under the Pet Travel Scheme. This showed that there would be a slight increase in risk. As the scheme is new, the British Government wishes to learn from the pilot and it has therefore been decided not to include these countries in the pilot. However, a further review will be undertaken in 2001 to determine whether the risk can be reduced, and inclusion in the full scheme will then be considered. I feel, and I think it's true to say that the rest of GDBA's Quarantine Advisory Panel also feel, that American and Canadian guide dogs should be included in the scheme. We would have liked them to also be included in the pilot.


It is hoped that British guide dogs will be able to travel to Australia and New Zealand under the pilot, but this depends on successful negotiations with the respective Governments of those countries, and with the airlines. For the moment, travel with pets between the British mainland and the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands will not be affected. This could change, of course, if rabies is introduced to the mainland. As far as I am aware, the Republic of Ireland is not relaxing its quarantine laws for Europe.


Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatican City.

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