Pets' passports will supercede quarantine stay

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL licensing scheme for Britain's 14 million cats and dogs is being drawn up by the government as part of its radical overhaul of quarantine laws.

The pet licence plan emerged yesterday as Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, backed an independent report that recommended a new system of "pet passports" and micro chip implants for animals entering the UK from Europe.

The long awaited Kennedy report, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and published yesterday, called for the abolition of the six month quarantine for cats and dogs brought from European Union and other rabies-free countries.

Ian Kennedy, professor of health law at University College, London, said that his panel of scientists had concluded that the sweeping changes to Britain's 100-year-old quarantine laws would not increase the current low risk of a rabid animal entering the UK.

Under the proposals outlined in the Kennedy report, animals travelling to Britain would have to be vaccinated and then have a micro chip implanted in their ear or neck to prove their identity. The chip would be scanned by Customs officers to verify the pets' blood test certificate and owners would be charged up to pounds 200, rather than the pounds 2,500 it currently costs to keep them in quarantine.

The 300-page report predicts that the number of pets entering the country from abroad would soar from 7,300 a year to more than a quarter of a million a year, but insists that the six month detention period would remain for those nations deemed to have a high risk of rabies.

Pets coming from the United States will still have to undergo the six month wait as research shows that the disease in endemic in North America, but rabies-free islands such as Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus, Malta, Hawaii and others would be included in the new scheme.

The Government is in broad agreement with the proposals, but the minister revealed yesterday that it could be 2001 before they are implemented.