Pet Travel Scheme: progress reviewed, risks assessed

UK Pet Travel Scheme assessed after two years

source: Veterinary Record vol 150 no 22, June 1 2002
starts p 674, 3 pages long

The UK Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) has been reviewed by the Royal Society of Medicine in London, May 2002. The pilot scheme began in february 2000, and some 45,000 animals came into the UK beween that date and Feb 2002. Eurotunnel accounted for 51%, ferries for 42% and 7% came by air. Problems with documentation and the timing of tapeworm and tick treatments have led to some animals being rejected when their owners tried to embark them.

PETS covers 24 European countries and an additional 27 destinations. EU regulations may come into force by 2003, harmonising pet animal movements, and bringing in two classifications for risks from rabies. Animals travelling from countries where the risk is seen as low would only need rabies vaccination. Animals from high-risk countries would need blood testing, and have to wait for three months before leaving, as well as being vaccinated. Cats, dogs and ferrets are included in these EU draft regulations.

The reservoir for rabies in Europe and North America tends to be in wild animals, though world wide, domestic dogs are the main reservoir. Wildlife vaccinations are seen as the way to control rabies in Europe and North America. Eastern Europe accounts for most European rabies cases, though some cases have been seen in Germany. Raccoon dogs are one host, and they have become feral in some European locations, following their introduction through fur farms. The other key host is the red fox, and there has been a successful European vaccination programme for foxes.

Wildlife accounted for 93% of North American cases in 2000, and there are more wildlife hosts in North America. Coyotes, which are five times as numerous as domestic dogs in the US, foxes, bats, skunks and raccoons can all harbour rabies. Raccoon rabies has spread to Canada, and vaccines have been less effective on raccoons than on coyotes and foxes.

University of Bristol's Susan Shaw is also concerned about babesiosis and leishmaniasis, which have begun to appear in the UK. Canine leishmaniasis is common in Spain and Italy. Vets have to use cattle products to treat dogs with babesiosis, due to delays in importing drugs geared to dogs, for which a licence is needed. Shaw is concerned about these diseases, and others from the New World, since UK pets do not have immunity to such novel diseases.

Meanwhile, pet owner, Ann Rennie, has called for more information to be made available to owners after her experience of taking two fox terriers from Scotland to Greece. She found obtaining export certificates to be a problem, and they were needed from countries that the fox terriers travelled through.