Dog and cat owners will find it cheaper and easier to travel to the UK with their pets when new rules are introduced at the start of next year.
The UK will harmonise its pet movement rules with the rest of the European Union from 1 January 2012, bringing the UK's Pet Travel Scheme into line with the most recent science.
The UK will maintain its high level of protection against animal diseases after the changes, which have the potential to save pet owners around £7 million in fees.
Forcing pets to spend six months in quarantine, a practice dating from the 1800s, is no longer necessary because of vastly improved rabies vaccines and treatments. All pets will still need to be vaccinated against rabies. Pets from the EU will no longer need a blood test and will only have to wait 21 days before they travel. The changes will ensure the risk of rabies coming to the UK remains extremely low. It's estimated that the new rules mean there would be one case of rabies in a pet in the UK once every 211 years, with the possibility of a person dying from rabies obtained from a pet once in every 21,000 years. The Health Protection Agency considers Spain a 'no risk' country for rabies.
Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said "The UK's quarantine system was designed to combat the threat of rabies in the 19th century and has now been left far behind by scientific advances. What is needed is a simpler, evidence-based system for protecting the UK from rabies which recognises the actual risk to pets and pet owners. The EU's pet movement scheme has been working very well for nearly a decade, and it makes sense for us to have similar rules."
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said "Rabies is a very serious human disease and the rabies-free status of the UK must be protected. The EU Pet Travel Rules have been successful in preventing any cases of rabies occurring in legally moved pets since the scheme started, so harmonising the UK's rules with those of the EU will make it easier for those who wish to travel with their pets."
The UK will continue to protect the public against the risk of serious exotic tapeworm infections and is pressing to retain tapeworm controls for pets entering the UK. The government has been discussing with the European Commission the most appropriate form of tapeworm controls for dogs, to ensure the UK continues to be protected from Echinococcus multilocularis.
The Commission has recently indicated that its proposals, expected shortly, would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls, with a requirement that animals be treated between one and five days before returning to the UK. Dog tapeworm is common in southern Spain.
Tick treatment for pet animals returning to the UK will no longer be required. All pet owners travelling abroad with their animals should discuss with their vets the use of treatments, including those designed to control ticks as part of good animal health practice.
Detailed information on what pet owners and vets need to do before bringing a pet to the UK can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel or obtained from the UK helpline +44 (0)870 241 1710.
Information in Spanish can be found on the British Embassy website at http://ukinspain.fco.gov.uk/es/visiting-uk/travelling-with-animals
Entry rules for pets entering the UK from the EU are shown below:
For media enquiries contact DEFRA information officer Peter Bramwell on +44 (0)20 7238 6092 or Press Office, British Embassy Madrid 917146363 / 4