Thanks to strict controls, the British Isles have long been free of the lethal mammal-borne disease. But now, says an East End MP, a relaxation of UK quarantine laws has opened our borders to dog-smugglers. Most illegal entries involve puppies intended for sale.
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) told Parliament this week that in 2011 the number of dogs brought in from Poland, Romania, Hungary and other east European countries was 2,000. In 2013 it was 12,000 — a six-fold increase in two years.
“Yet none of them, not one,” the former Labour environment minister added, “was for commercial sale. Really?”
Those were the declared dogs — a lot more were entering the UK than the data suggest. And he knew of no prosecutions.
Britain’s rabies rules came into line with the rest of Europe in January 2012, when changes to the pet travel scheme removed the need for a blood test followed by a six-month wait before (re-)entry to the UK.
Like Fitzpatrick, the Dogs Trust is worried that because of the quarantine relaxation and a lack of adequate anti-smuggling measures, it will be only a matter of time before Britain experiences an incidence of rabies similar to that in France and the Netherlands. The trust said the Government had ignored veterinary and welfare groups’ warnings.
Fitzpatrick commented: “The relaxation of the rules has led to a free-for-all black market for puppy-smugglers. They’re making a killing on importing dogs using a loophole which shouldn’t be available to them in the first place.
“This illegal trade is a danger to our health and the health of our animals.”
David Altheer 270314
* Picture at top, supplied by the MP’s office (as is also the Fitzpatrick head shot), shows a guide dog at a parliamentary reception.
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