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Remove DEFRA travel route restrictions for pet dogs and cats with correct veterinary treatments

2 Comments 5th July 2010

Remove DEFRA's entirely pointless restrictions on travel methods and points of entry when traveling with a EU-microchipped and correctly vaccinated/worm treated pet dog or cat into the UK. If the animal is 'safe' to enter on some official DEFRA-approved route, then there is no possible reason why it should become 'unsafe' if the same animal from the same foreign country with the same vacccinations and treatments appears at the same port of entry but on a non-DEFRA-approved flight number, or at any other port of entry by any travel method.

  
At present, accounding to the DEFRA website, 'Dogs, cats and ferrets entering the UK under PETS may only do so on certain sea, air and rail routes', an apparently arbitrary list of selected commercial flight numbers, a few ferry routes and several executive jet companies and Eurotunnel, and specifically 'You may not bring a pet into the UK from a private boat or plane'.


These travel-method restrictions are unique to UK – other Euopean countries, who are no doubt just as concerned about the possible import of rabies and other unpleasant microbes and parasites, do not have travel-route restrictions. Even, for example, Sweden, which similar to UK has extra veterinary  import requirements (e.g. de-worming) above the EU standard, allows you to import your dog or cat by any method into any port of entry.

Why does this matter?

Pet owners will gain:
the freedom to travel with pets as they wish (from any approved country), on any ferry (with the consent of the ferry operator) to any UK port, on any airline, with the pet with them in the cabin, if the airline allows (many do for intra-european flights, but are forbidden by DEFRA for flights to UK), or in a private boat or plane. At present, if you want your pet to travel with you (really with you, not as freight or airline baggage), you have to go by car with Eurotunnel (or possibly some ferries, I'm not sure), which can be very inconvenient. Owners's  responsibility (apart from the usual veterinary requirements) is simply to declare the animal to customs on arrival, or maybe even, say 24hrs in advance, if arrival is at a little-frequented port of entry.

Everyone else will gain:
(a) there is less incentive for pet owners to smuggle, when they ignore the 'DEFRA approved routes' rules, but more seriously probably also ignore the useful veterinary requirements and import some unpleasant pathogen.
(b) taxpayer no longer funds the make-work-for-ourselves team of  DEFRA staff maintaining the 'approved transport routes' list
(c) even UK airports may gain – there are many anecdotes of people flying from e.g. USA to France, and then on via Eurotunnel,  becaused DEFRA make it so difficult to come directly to UK.

Losers:  As well as the DEFRA approved-routes team, various commercial animal transport businesses and executive jet charter companies will be upset at the possible loss of business from pet owners who with the current rules find it impossible to bring their own pet with them themselves. All these losers will, of course, claim that disaster will ensue for everyone if the restrictions are repealed. As usual, some will lobby, others may do worse to protect their rent-seeking.

Eurotunnel my also lose a bit – from the numbers reported by DEFRA and the number of dogs and cats passing through Eurotunnel's Calais office, it seems almost all pet dogs and cats coming in to the UK come with Eurotunnel. Eurotunnel actually have  a very good system, so I am sorry they my loose some business (I don't work for Eurotunnel!).

As a final word, maybe the extra UK veterinary requirements (above the EU standard ones for rabies etc) are also unnecessary. I don't know. But anyway the veterinary requirements are a managable inconvenience, compared with the DEFRA total ban on almost all travel possibilities. So if only one rule is to be junked, it should be the travel route restrictions. 

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2 Responses to Remove DEFRA travel route restrictions for pet dogs and cats with correct veterinary treatments

  1. Quentin says:

    The limitations on ports of entry are there, no doubt, to enable DEFRA to manageably check that animals actually do conform to regulations.
    It would probably be very expensive to install checking staff/equipment at every possible entry point.
    It might seem daft to someone who obeys the law, but laws need to be enforced because there are plenty of people who ignore them, and that means routing animals to places so that there is enough animal traffic at any one place for it to be cost-effective to support the animal passport system at that place.
    Vets are expensive people to employ.

  2. Jeanette says:

    Your comment does not apply to a lot of commercial airports where they do have this equipment already for animals travelling in the cargo hold. A friend paid for her dog to travel from one of the Greek islands. The dog arrived in Athens but was then put on a flight to Hamburg instead of London. That was bad enough but the dog was then sent back to Athens, where he was further delayed, before being sent to London. There are other horror stories where the animal has either died or needed to be euthanised for various reasons including being put in the wrong part of the hold or the captain forgot or didn’t know to change the temperature in the part of the hold where the animal was. If we are in the eu we should have the same regulations as within the eu.

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